Tag Archives: Eowyn Ivey

Friday Faceoff – In the bleak midwinter…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is a snowscape, so I’ve chosen Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.

 

This is the cover produced by Reagan Arthur Books in February 2012 and frankly, I don’t know what they were thinking. It is pretty enough – indeed, looks appropriate for a cute childen’s tale. But this book is nothing of the sort – it is a wonderful portrait of survival in a hostile environment, of despair and gritted determination and a miracle. Or is it? So this cover is completely inappropriate.

 

This edition, produced by Headline Review in February 2012 is more like it. I love the simplicity of the deep blue with the outline of the girl and the fox in white. It is eye-catching and gives a far better sense of the book. While it isn’t my favourite, it is certainly a huge improvement on the previous effort.

 

Published in July 2012 by Polirom, this Romanian cover is an unfortunate throwback to the first cover. It looks far too juvenile for this remarkable book which covers very adult themes, even if the prose is at times ethereally beautiful.

 

Thank goodness this cover, produced in September 2014 by Tinder Press, is a much better effort. The snowscape is still beautiful. I love the looping font the footsteps leading away from it towards the smudge in the trees that may or may not be the child. Lovely and entirely in keeping with the content.

 

However my favourite is this Serbian edition by Laguna, published in January 2013. I love the cool blue of the cover and the delicacy and detail of the frosting around the edge of the cover – how beautiful! And it isn’t the snow child portrayed on the cover, it is the heavier figure of the woman, searching for her… As you may have gathered, I’ve become a tad overwrought about these covers – but which is your favourite?

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Review of The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

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This book was lent to me by one of my students with a strong recommendation – and she mentioned there was a slight fantasy spin on it, which piqued my interest. It’s ideal summer reading as a foil to the heatwave we’re experiencing right now…

the snow childAlaska, 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 their land, each is filled with wonder, but also foreboding – is she what she seems?

I have to confess I was concerned this would be one of those books long on literary descriptions and agonised self-examination at the expense of plot and action. But I needn’t have worried. The main protagonist is Mabel, and as the story unfurls, it is far grittier than it first seems. The descriptions of Alaska are wonderful – but this isn’t some soft-focused, tender evocation of a lost wilderness, although that is part of the package. However, it also is a grinding struggle for survival in an environment that takes no prisoners – those living there cannot afford any squeamishness and need to be physically and mentally tough.

Mabel nearly buckles during their second winter, while Jack is bowed by the weight of trying to establish his smallholding when past his physical prime. And then, one snowy night they build a small girl snowman after Mabel reads the Russian tale – and in the morning find that the mittens and hat they’d decorated it with are gone. And a pale-haired child is wearing them…

Is this some fantastic fairy tale come true? Ivey takes some time to answer that question – in the meantime, the child’s appearance in their lives changes Jack and Mabel, as does their growing relationship with their nearest neighbours. It took a couple of chapters, but once I became used to the pacing and relaxed into Ivey’s polished, straightforward prose, this book grabbed me and wouldn’t let go until the last chapter – which was a bittersweet shock.

It’s one of those books where you are left to make up your mind as to exactly what happened – which left me with a lump in my throat… It certainly isn’t a book I’m going to forget in a hurry and if you like unusual, unsentimental books that give a pitch perfect evocation of time and place, then track this down. It is beautiful, engrossing and left me with a complicated range of feelings that I only normally experience when watching my grandchildren play.
9/10