Book Shelf: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Book Shelf: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

By Brooke Lehmann

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (Headline) is the debut novel by the Alaskan native. Based on a traditional Russian fairytale called Snegurochka, Ivey makes the story her own by setting the narrative in the Alaskan frontier. The frontier being one of the main characters itself, Ivey does a superb job of describing this untamed landscape in all its glory, the depth of knowledge about her birthplace coming through in her descriptive detail.

The story focuses on Jack and Mabel, a married couple in their fifties who are haunted by their grief at never having had children. In a brief moment of childlike bliss, Jack and Mabel find their youth again and construct a snow child, or rather, a snow girl, only to find the next morning, their creation has disappeared.

What ensues is an odd chain of events and their meeting a small girl who appears to live in the woods. After growing quite attached to her, Jack and Mabel are confronted with questions they can’t seem to answer; who the child is, and where she came from.

Although the relationship between Jack and Mabel is intriguing, there is a continual hope that something more will eventuate. Almost anti-climatic, the novel primarily focuses on seemingly trivial detail rather than attention being paid to the plot.

Ivey obviously plays to her strength through this, as there is a vulnerability and beauty in her style, though at times it's quite tedious (her description of every possible kind of snow are ever-present). Still, Ivey manages to transport the reader through her tangible portrayal of human suffering and heartache.

The story forces us to ask, 'Are children really our own when they can be taken from us at anytime?'. And do we tread too lightly on the icy surface of life itself? In the English version of Snegurochka called Little Daughter of the Snow by Arthur Ransome, the snow child adopted by the couple turns back into snow: 'The little girl leapt into the arms of Frost her father and Snow her mother.' 

Aimed primarily to young adult and older readers, and all in between, The Snow Child delivers a fairytale-esque quality, while incorporating an old-world feel. Although a bit slow paced, Ivey does manage to make an old fairytale her own and dazzle with sentiment and grace.

Brooke Lehmann is a photographer, wordsmith and bibliophile who resides on Tamborine Mountain.