The Snow Child

Rating: 5 out of 5.
The Snow Child book cover

Eowyn Ivey, 2012

This book is a masterpiece.

Jack and Mabel, a middle-aged couple trying to survive the arctic frontier in the early 20th century, make a snow sculpture in the image of a little girl. The next morning the snow-girl is gone, and the couple believes it has been destroyed.

As you can guess from the fact that this is a story called The Snow Child, that’s not what happened. The rest of the book, told in prose as natural and honest as the cruel Alaskan wilderness, is equal parts fairy tale and love story.

The Snow Child has its roots in Russian and Slavic tales of a girl who is formed of snow and comes to life, with some variations. A Wikipedia search will show you that in some form or another, the figure of the snow child or snow girl or snow maiden reaches back as far as medieval times. You can read one version of it in the short story “Snowflake,” found in The Pink Fairy Book. (Read for free on Project Gutenberg.) Other stories based on the snow child motif are Little Daughter of the Snow (Arthur Ransome, excerpted in the trade paperback version of this book) and The Snow Child (Freya Littledale, quoted at the beginning of this book).

Startling and sometimes painful in its beauty, heavy in its sorrow, and magical in its characterization of Mabel, Jack, and Faina the Snow Child, this Pulitzer Prize-nominated novel sets the bar for fiction.

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