Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart–he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.
This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.
I heard lots of wonderful things about this book from friends whose opinions I really trust so when I won a proof copy I was really excited to discover what all the fuss was about. I picked a suitably cold and rainy day, curled up and let myself be transported back to 1920s Alaska.
This book is absolutely beautiful. It tells the story of Jack and Mabel who have moved to Alaska in the hope of a new life after the heartbreak of losing a baby. The book follows the couple as they adjust to a whole new way of life, we get to experience the life of the homesteaders from hunting to coping with the cold and lack of sunshine, and to becoming a part of this small community. Then the mysterious Faina appears in their life, everyone has their own theory on where she has come from and why. Whatever her story, her influence on both Jack and Mabel is both instantaneous and significant.
There are so many wonderful characters in this book. I found myself drawn to both Jack and Mabel, and I loved the way that the book took into account both of their feelings rather than focusing solely on Mabel. The way they related to one another was beautifully written, at times I almost felt like I was peeking through the window and eavesdropping on them. I also loved Garrett, and the way we got to see him grow from a boy into a man over the course of the book. And then of course there is Faina, mysterious, magical Faina. She’s such a quiet character, yet she fills every page she appears on, and when she disappeared (as she periodically does) I found that I was missing her as much as the other characters.
The book is written in such a way that you are entirely transported into it. The descriptive writing really brings the reader into the harsh world of wintery Alaska. As I got towards the end of the book I tried to slow down my reading, I wasn’t ready to return to the real world. I did of course reach the end, and there was only one thing to do – I sat there and hugged the book, still captured under the spell it had cast over me. It’s been a long time since a book has made me feel like this, I know I’m going to be going back and re-reading this book many times to recapture that feeling.
The Snow Child is published in hardback and eBook by Headline Review in the UK from 1st February 2012. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.