A Winter’s Tale

An Alaskan myth that instills hope when there’s none

Written by Shantanu David | Published: April 20, 2013 1:04 am

Book: The Snow Child

Author: Eowyn Ivey

Publisher: Hachette

Price: Rs 395

Pages: 432

As the mercury rises,those afflicted by winter blues would do well to turn the pages of The Snow Child,Alaskan journalist Eowyn Ivey’s debut novel. Set in the harsh,frostbitten terrain of her native Alaska in the 1920’s,Ivey’s book paints a compelling picture of the lives of a community of homesteaders,eking out an existence outside Anchorage,in the sothern extremes of Alaska.

Into this scene,enter Jack and Mabel,a middle-aged couple from the “back East of America”,determined to leave their sorrows and troubles behind them as they make a fresh start in the unknown wilderness. Still haunted by the loss of their child from many years ago,they are stunned when a child they fashion out of snow transmutes into a living,breathing girl called Faina. The book then follows the thrivings and the travails of the trio and how Faina and her red fox touch the lives of others.

Given its rather supernatural plot line,it is unfortunate that the story and the characters proceed to become as mushy as the summer snow in which Faina frolics (or alternately,droops decoratively). Considering Ivey adapted the main plot from a Russian folk tale,one would imagine that she could have made it happier,instead of creating the mood that it is “a fine day to hang oneself in”.

However,despite it’s maudlin character,The Snow Child is an interesting and engaging read,mostly due to the language Ivey employs. Her descriptions and metaphors are highly visual,breathing life and warmth into a desolate but beautiful landscape. In fact,we might even be tempted to pinch some of them for ourselves.

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