I picked up this book because Jean Bull mentioned it as one of her Inheritance Books on my blog (I’m using the blog feature as a source of book recommendations more and more now). I’m glad I did.
The Snow Child is a retelling of the Russian folktale of the old couple who made a snow child who came to life. The book is set in Alaska and is told through the eyes of Mabel, who is defined by the loss of her baby, and her loving husband, Jack. They are old and tired and drifting apart. One evening, in a fit of uncharacteristic spontaneity, they build a snow girl. The next day, the snow girl is knocked down and a little girl appears. We later learn that she’s called Faina.
There is always a slight uncertainty as to whether Faina is real or magic. When Faina is around, the dialogue marks disappear. Whilst this makes it a little bit difficult to work out what is spoken out loud and what is internal monologue, the lack of quote marks makes the dialogue seem muffled and unreal, completely in keeping with the atmosphere of the book. Atmosphere is something this story has plenty of.
The story moves slowly, but move it does. The writing is confident. Mabel and Jack are well drawn, as are the secondary characters. I’ve seen other reviews which describe this book as dark. I don’t think it is particularly dark. Just bleak at the start. There are moments of joy, but everything is slightly muted. Like a landscape under snow.
I enjoyed this book immensely. I look forward to reading more by Eowyn Ivey.