Tag: Debut novel

Review: Eowyn Ivey – The Snow Child

eowyn-ivey-the-snow-childI almost have no words for this book, but here’s a few that spring to mind: beautiful, enchanting, haunting and captivating.

The book is set in 1920’s Alaska. Jack and Mabel moved to Alaska with the dream of setting up a cosy homestead with just the two of them, away from the constant reminders that they have remained childless. They did have a child once, many years ago, but the child was stillborn and this has haunted Mabel ever since.

Times are hard in Alaska, Jack is not a young man so it’s hard for him to tend the land, and the isolation is not good for Mabel, leading to depression and a feeling of desperation: the book starts with Mabel taking herself off to the frozen river in the hopes of falling through the ice into the blackness below.

One winter night during the first snowfall of the season, Jack and Mabel experience a rare moment of togetherness and have a snowball fight and make a beautiful little snow girl, giving her mittens and a scarf, adorning her with straw for hair and making little pink lips with berry juice. The next morning, the snow girl has disappeared, which wouldn’t be so strange, if the mittens and scarf hadn’t disappeared too.

Then, mysteriously, Jack starts to see a little girl in the forest around their house. He thinks he may be going mad until Mabel sees her too. Now during this time, Mabel and Jack have (unwillingly at first), made friends with their neighbours George and Esther and their children. When Esther hears Mabel talk about this little girl, she thinks she is going crazy with the isolation.

But after a while, Mabel and Jack manage to coax the little girl into their house, and discover that her name is Faina. She’s wild and unpredictable, but seems at one with the forest, never staying for long with Jack and Mabel before she runs off to her forest home.

The story follows Mabel, Jack, Faina and their neighbours over the next 6 years as Faina grows up and gradually becomes a daughter to Mabel and Jack. But each time winter ends and spring comes around, Faina disappears, leaving Mabel heartbroken. Mabel is reminded of an old Russian fairy tale that her father used to read to her. Needless to say this doesn’t have a good ending, and it worries Mabel, even when Faina is around, and especially when it looks like Faina is falling in love with George and Esther’s son Garrett, who has also become a great help on the farm with Jack and Mabel.

The ending of the story was beautiful and tragic, and I’m not ashamed to say it made me cry. It didn’t end quite how I expected it to, but it was a true fairy tale.

As well as being a fabulously well told story, the book portrayed a beautiful picture of the Alaskan wilderness, but also a very realistic picture of the harsh realities of the ice-cold winter and the loneliness and isolation that families in the 1920’s experienced, before they all had cars and modern technology like computers and phones to stay in contact with the rest of the world.

When I reached the end of the book, I was shocked to learn that this was a debut novel, so enthralling and perfectly written to make sure that you just can’t put it down. Definitely recommended!


Review: Jessica Thompson – This is a Love Story

jessica-thompson-this-is-a-love-story-e1329424003476It’s been a busy past few days for me (more about that in a blog post tomorrow), so I’ve only just finished reading this book. I have a few days off work now though, and I’m expecting a parcel from Amazon tomorrow with the baseball books that I ordered last week.

It was really good though, especially for a debut novel. At first, I was a bit dubious as one of the main characters (Sienna) seemed a bit thin, but after a while her character was fleshed out a bit and I started to really get along with both her and Nick.

Like a lot of books in this genre, the book was written from two viewpoints, but unusually you saw most parts of the story through the eyes of both characters. It was a refreshing change, and definitely made the story more engaging.

The main storyline was obviously Sienna and Nick, and the almost love story between them. As I had guessed, it wasn’t quite a perfect love story, it’s definitely unusual when the two main characters don’t actually get together until the last 3 pages of the book!

The book also brought attention to a condition called Narcolepsy which most people find quite trivial (if they’ve heard about it at all), but you find out from the book that it’s actually quite serious and the effect that it has on the person and their family and friends too. Sienna’s Dad has this condition which makes him fall asleep (and fall over) whenever he feels any kind of strong emotion, and she spends a lot of time looking after him. In the end, it’s him that plays a big role in bringing Sienna and Nick together. He was also the reason that I almost cried in the last few chapters, I’ll not tell you what happened but it was very emotional!

I definitely enjoyed this book, very easy going and a nice (mostly) light hearted story. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for Jessica Thompson in the future.


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