My first Friday Reads post for a while-I HAVE been reading, just not reviewing then, which is bad. I did, however, want to write about The Snow Child, nominated for the Pulitzer in 2013.
The debut novel of Alaskan journalist and bookseller Eowyn Ivey, this is the story of a couple who relocate to Alaska in the 1920s, who reconnect because of necessity of working in partnership for survival, breaking down the enforced gender roles of the time, to discover a deep love for each other and for the land they work. It is also about what it means to be a parent and how grief can affect people.
Inspired by the Russian fairy tale of the Snow Child, where an older couple make a snowman that turns into a child who can only stay alive in the freezing winter but vanishes with the frost, this book is also centred around a mysterious girl who visit Jack and Martha and becomes their surrogate daughter.
This part of the book, however, despite being it’s focal centre, I found the weakest. The moments of real joy and feeling were those centred around Jack and Martha and their relationship. I did not like the insinuation that their happiness with each other was entirely dependent on their shared love for a third as I do not believe that was what made them rediscover each other. In my reading of the book, it was Martha discovering independence and freedom of movement, without restraint or social responsibility, which led to their ultimate happiness as a couple. Martha learns this through necessity and through her neighbour Esther. This is probably complexly opposite to what the author intended but I did form a theory that the Old Testament Esther, who lives her life in a way as women did/could before patriarchal social norms that prevented women from working with the men, saves New Testament Martha, who worries too much about the little things in the home and having a tidy house to see what is really important.
Martha’s status as a mother who had lost a child was affecting, and very well done, but I was more impressed by the novel for its depiction of Alaskan life than as a retelling of a fairy tale. I would love to go to Alaska, after reading this book, as it sounds like just the most beautiful place on Earth.
A chilly, but lovely read this would make the perfect Christmas present for anyone who is into books about the time, or people who like a good weep. It is a couple of years old now, but it passed me by the first time round so I’m guessing there would be a few people who also haven’t read this book. A book club would also love it.