Sep 13, 2013

The Weeknight Book Club: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison.

When the weather conspires to keep you indoors, there's not much to do but bring on the marshmallow sweetened hot drinks and lose yourself in a good book or two.

I've read two novels recently that you might be interested in yourselves, if you've not read them already. The first is a whimsical retelling of an old Russian fairy tale and the second is a nail biting, page turning account of a modern day marriage gone horribly wrong.
Eowyn Ivey is a native Alaskan author and 'The Snow Child' is her first published novel. The plot is based on a Russian fairy tale in which a childless Russian couple make a snow child who comes alive. There are many versions of how the story ends but none of them are happy. The child attempts to join the world of humans in each but meets her death by melting for various poetic reasons.
Ivey's Snow Child is born in 1920's frontier Alaska to Jack and Mabel. Mabel gave up a cultured, city life to join Jack in creating their own piece of America in an unforgiving environment that has a harsh beauty that they rarely get the chance to appreciate so back breaking is the work required to build their lives there.
The couple are childless, heartbreakingly so. One day, Mabel decides to make a snow man on their property and Jack eventually joins her with gusto. The sculpture is given human features and is clothed in woollens that Mabel never had the chance to dress a human child in.
Funny things happen in the days after their snow child is made. The snow itself appears to have melted away and the clothes disappeared. Little footprints (possibly human) crisscross the surrounding ground and the couple each 'see' blurry visions of a young girl in the snow. Is it cabin fever or has their snow child really turned into a girl?
Eventually, their little vision becomes brave enough to meet them. Her name is Faina and she is now an orphan fending for herself in the woods. Over the years, Faina visits Jack and Mabel each winter but leaves as the weather warms up. Faina grows into a young woman, finds love and becomes a mother but her fate parallels the fairy tale Mabel remembers from her own childhood.
I don't think I can remember the last time I've read an 'adult' fairy tale. It's interesting finding your adult self being taken so skilfully into a world that hovers somewhere between reality and the fantasy of a folk tale.

'The Silent Wife' by A.S.A Harrison is another kettle of fish. On its release, it was billed as suspense novel in the style of Gillian Flynn's 'Gone Girl'. They are both set in the privileged world of the well to do in big American cities but while 'Gone Girl' delves into the fraught world of teenage girls, 'The Silent Wife' explored the tensions and complexities of a crumbling 20 year defacto relationship between two outwardly successful but deeply traumatised adults. Whatever the differences plot wise, they've both had the same result on me. My restless fingers have given my iPhone and iPad a rest as they concentrate on my Kindle in the race to reach the final page of each.

Unfortunately, Harrison passed away earlier this year and 'The Silent Wife' was her only work of fiction, taking about a decade to complete. Her career began with editing and performance art. I was surprised to read in her biography that Harrison wasn't a psychologist because the prose of 'The Silent Wife' is littered with eloquent references to the schools of psychological thought and the principles of counselling as well as astute analyses of the psyches of the novel's characters.

The novel is told in chapters that alternate between the points of view of 'Her' (Jodi, a psychotherapist) and 'Him' (Todd, a successful property developer with a lifestyle to match). The couple have been living as defactos for 20 years. Theirs is a life of casual luxury. They have all the material trappings of wealth at their disposal but it seems that they're only going through the motions with each other.

Jodi loves the work life balance Todd's wealth has afforded her but is her outward 'strength' and composure a coping mechanism for some kind of past trauma that she's not been able to face. Todd managed to survive a childhood at the hands of an alcoholic father and submissive mother. Though he loves Jodi, he in unable to remain faithful to her and as the novel unfolds, it is discovered that he has fathered a child to the daughter of one of his best friends.

In the wake of this revelation, Jodi and Todd's comfortable life together goes into free fall. Todd cuts the purse strings to the life he provided for Jodi while Jodi investigates alternative' avenues by which to exact revenge on Todd.

Good books. Their easing the pain of not being able to watch The Bachelor Australia live on free to air...

Have a great weekend!



  1. I adored the fairytale The Snowchild growing up and am now keen to read this adult version. Thank you.

  2. these books sound scary but good! Meanwhile I tried to watch the Bachelor and could not.


    1. FF, I understand the Bachelor issue. I suspect I love talking about it more than actually watching it.

      SSG xxx


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