Author: Eowyn Ivey, 2012.
Genre: Period Fiction. Magical Realism. Re-told Fairy Tale.
Other Details: Paperback. 438 pages.
Alaska, the 1920s. Jack and Mabel have staked everything on a fresh start in a remote homestead, but the wilderness is a stark place, and Mabel is haunted by the baby she lost many years before. When a little girl appears mysteriously on heir land, each is filled with wonder, but also foreboding -- is she what she seems, and can they find room in their hearts for her? - synopsis from Goodreads.
Prior to the little girl's first appearance the couple decide to build a snowman during the first snowfall of the season. They then turn it into a snow girl and provide it with a red scarf and mittens. The next morning the snow girl has melted and the mittens and scarf are missing. Jack has his first glimpse of a young girl among the trees wearing the scarf and mittens. This makes a connection for Mabel with a story from her childhood about a snow child made by a childless couple that comes to life. Over the time they see her in the company of a fox and are uncertain if she is real or the product of their secret dreams.
This was an enchanting and beautifully written tale set in 1920s Alaska. I felt the author did a wonderful job of capturing the setting and the difficult conditions facing the homesteaders. It came as no surprise that Eowyn Ivey has lived in Alaska for most of her life so can appreciate its seasons and write so evocatively about the landscape and the animal and plant life.
There is a thread of magical realism running through the novel and yet it also remains rooted in the world. The author weaves the story of the snow maiden into the story very artfully in the form of a favourite book from Mabel's childhood. The paperback edition also includes the short story 'Little Daughter of the Snow' by Arthur Ransome.
This is a reading group selection and was very well received by the group generating lively discussion . We all felt it was an impressive début novel well deserving of the nominations and awards it received,
Eowyn Ivey;s web page on 'The Snow Child' - includes video, excerpt and background details.