Book Club: The Snow Child

I had read this book a while ago, and someone suggested it when we were looking for a Christmas themed book – although it isn’t about Christmas in particular, it is a wintry themed modern take on a Russian folk tale, with (perhaps) a bit of magic thrown in.

The Snow Child

The original Russian tale is about an old childless couple who sculpt a little girl out of snow, only to find that she comes to life and stays with them all winter, disappearing when the snow melts and reappearing when winter returns. And so it is with Mabel and Jack, the couple in The Snow Child, who are trying to make a life for themselves in the cold, harsh and isolated Alaskan wilderness. The girl, Fania, has many magical qualities, and there is a lingering question throughout the book as to whether she is a real person, a figment of Jack and Mabel’s imagination, or some kind of magical spirit sent to help them in their troubled lives.

There wasn’t much discussion, to be honest, as we were quite buy enjoying our Christmas meal (of traditional Mexican fayre), bur agreed that the question over Fania’s existence rested on the fact that Ivey chose to write all of her spoken words without quotation marks, unlike all of the other characters. This was quite puzzling, and made us a little unsure of the ending – whether or not the question of her origin was ever truly answered.

It helped me in some ways to know that in one version of the Russian folk tale, the snow child is unable to love, and when she learns how, her heart melts. This doesn’t make the ending of Ivey’s version 100% less ambiguous, but it helped me understand why she concluded it the way she did. I did enjoy The Snow Child in some ways, but in others, I felt it was a little incomplete. Three and a half stars.

“In my old age, I see that life itself is often more fantastic and terrible than the stories we believed as children, and that perhaps there is no harm in finding magic among the trees.”

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