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Book Club Review - The Snow Child

This month's book review is about The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. Here's our review, written by Book Club member, Julia C.

The Snow Child is a debut novel by Eowyn Ivey, published in 2012 and set in the 1920s Alaskan Territories.  It’s an adaptation of the Russian folk tale of a tragic young maiden made of snow, doomed to melt by fire, heat or love. Jack and Mabel, getting older and living with suppressed grief over the loss of their stillborn child, have moved to build a new life and to remove themselves from their relatives with children. George is proud and wants to protect Mabel from the relentless, hard labour.

The eponymous Snow Child is Faina, who wears the hat and mittens from the melted snow form.  Her presence seems to give Mabel and Jack purpose and happiness. Faina becomes a feral child who has learnt the skills to survive in the harsh and beautiful Alaskan landscape. The couple drift apart, Mabel spending long hours alone in the hut while George attempts to clear and cultivate the land.  It’s harder than they expect and nearly fail in the first year but are rescued and find friendship from their nearest neighbours, Esther and George and their three sons. Under the guidance of Garrett, their youngest son, the homestead flourishes and he and Faina fall in love, marry and have a baby.  Faina develops a fever after childbirth, leaves the hut and goes out into the snow. The reader doesn’t know if she survives. Generally, we all enjoyed the book and found it a page turner and for some, the fairy tale elements were the best parts. The story has a good pace and the snow, the cold, the mountains, all felt very real. The descriptions of tracking, hunting, fishing and working the land made it an interesting read. The characters were generally well described and we particularly liked Esther who was a spirited, practical and fun woman, who rescued the couple after Jack’s accident. Her youngest son Garrett is another well described character and central to the story. We discussed some inconsistencies; the town with the hotel didn’t seem to have many people but they kept buying Mabel’s pies.  Faina couldn’t tolerate the heat of Mabel and George’s hut, disappearing for months, and then later she spends the summer with Garrett, marries and lives with him in their hut. Mabel desperately made Garrett promise not to harm Faina's fox, he shoots it but nothing happens. We thought Mabel was probably depressed and wondered whether there was a parallel between Mabel attempting to be consumed by the river and Faina setting out from the hut. 

Most would recommend the book as a light, easy read.

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