Thursday, 9 October 2014

The Snow Child

The Snow Child
Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of BookBridgr and Headline

After losing their only baby a few years before, Jack and Mabel pack up and head to Alaska, they want to stake all they have on starting up a homestead. Things are tough in 1920's Alaska, winters are hard, and the ground isn't what Jack, from a large farming family, is used to. They struggle to make it through one winter. Lonely, and haunted by what could have been, Mabel isn't as happy as she thought she would be. But that all changes when Jack and Mabel spend one care free evening building a snow girl. Except when they wake up the next's gone. And then the little girl appears. Gradually she starts to become less wary of them, but as Mabel and Jack make friends with their neighbors Esther and George, things start to change. At first they don't believe Mabel, but as the years wear on, well....they finally meet her, and one of their boys takes a shine. Is she just an orphaned girl, used to living in the wild? Or is she the snow child of an old Russian fairytale?

This book is so beautiful, not just outside, but inside too. The descriptions and the world building where astounding. The story, as heartbreaking at times as it was, was just...beautiful.

I'm not sure if it was just me, but when in Mabel's point of view, at the beginning, the landscape and the world seemed so depressing, but as Mabel became happier, with help from their snow child, she started to notice the beauty in the landscape, it might just be me, but it seemed like the descriptions changed as she noticed the beauty in the landscape that she was slowly coming to love. Don't get me wrong though...the descriptions even when they're bleak and depressing, are beautiful as well.

This isn't a fairytale story, it's based on one yes, but there's emotional highs and lows, there is hardship. You see Mabel and Jack struggling to survive, and then you see how important friendship is when those friends lend a helping hand. It's all about survival and friendship and family, and not just blood family, as the book shows. But you also got brief flashes of how brutal it is to survive in the conditions in the book, there's a lot of animal killings, and I guess in this day and age, it's not something we think about much. I found myself thinking I quite probably would not have the stomach to kill and gut an animal, even if my survival depended on it, so there where this brutal/harsh flashes that reminded you that it's tough to survive, it's not easy, and while the landscape may be pretty, it's harsh and unforgiving. The tone of the book the entire way through was sad for me, there where a couple of light moments, but I felt so sad for Mabel and Jack the majority of the time.

It's hard to puzzle out in the beginning, is Faina an actual orphaned child now her dad's dead, or is she the girl from the fairytale who vanishes but comes back with Winter? I was convinced she was, despite evidence to the contrary with her father and so on, but when Esther and that saw her, and Garrett too, I was like "oh okay she's real" but then the leaves you wondering. You kind of have to draw your own conclusions.

I was spellbound the entire time I was reading, the incredible world building, the amazing descriptions that had me vividly picturing the location of everything, the story/plot, the intrigue regarding Faina, the characters and their struggles and inner hardships, I was sucked in by it all.

I mean, I've never been to Alaska, but I felt like I got a really vivid mental image through the descriptions, when I think of Alaska I think of this movie I used to watch as a kid, Snow Dogs, with the small town and the endless snow, but I feel like I got more of a sense of the place, or a wider/more extensive, sense of the place.

The POV was mostly Mabel and Jack, but we did get Garrett at one point, and the transition was smooth and the multi POV wasn't just the author showing the same scene twice, with the exact same information, there was always a purpose to it, a conversation or event may be mentioned, and then you'd see that particular characters opinion about it, and their feelings, and you'd understand why they acted a certain way which had confused or upset the other character.

The characters are all interesting, like I said, each has their own inner struggles. I did love Mabel and Jack's relationship, I loved the moments when they where like teenagers again, doing silly things like snow angels and you could see that despite the hardships they've faced, their relationship was slowly healing, with some help from Faina of course, but still, it was touching. I also loved Esther and her relationship with Mabel, I loved how Esther would just come barging in and was determined to be friends with Mabel, and you watched Mabel kind of grudgingly, at least at the beginning, start to like Esther, and you watched the friendship grow.

Mostly I loved watching Mabel change, with her drawings and her love of books, she really didn't seem cut out for the life that she'd actually suggested, but when push comes to shove, and she's finally allowed to get her hands dirty, she's out there sorting the fields out, doing all the farm work with help from Esther and Garrett, and your opinion of her changes from the beginning through to the end, and it's the same with Jack, I thought he was a bit of a douche in the beginning, but you realize he hurts too, he just doesn't show it. Garrett was also interesting, he started out as a character you kind of wanted to smack, because he was a bit annoying, and then he was all sulky about having to help Mabel, but again, you saw him change, he helped Mabel, talked to her, she lent him books and so on, and  your opinion of him did a total 180.

I can't really say much about Faina herself, we're kept distanced from her, we don't get to know her all that well, and I think it was done on purpose by the author to keep that air of mystery about her, to keep you guessing and wondering right up until the end and while it may annoy some people who need a straight answer, I thought it was very well done. We had such meaty characters that you where busy trying to work them out, but not too busy to not be intrigued about Faina.

The Snow Child is an ethereal, enchanting and spellbinding read, with an undercurrent of sadness despite the light moments, it's a perfect winter read to curl up with by the fire, or with a blanket and a cup of tea. It will leave you wondering what's real and what's magic right up until the end, and you're left to draw your own conclusions.

Now I'm off to go and attempt to locate a copy of the original Russian Fairytale the book was based on!

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