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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

Popular Magic Realism

The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey

Set at the beginning of the twentieth century, The Snow Child is the story of Mabel who is unable to face the conviviality of friends and family after giving birth to a stillborn child, and her husband, Jack. Seeking isolation and a fresh start, they move to Alaska where they encounter Faina, an apparently magical child who lives in the snowy wilderness. Faina’s presence brings both joy and sorrow and ultimately redemption from grief.

Lyrical and often beautifully observed, The Snow Child is a moving study in grief and in the solace the natural world provides; but it is not without weaknesses. At times the author strays into the realm of sentimentality. Moreover, for me, the whimsical blend of fantasy and realism that is the wellspring of the book’s plot is not entirely satisfactory. Faina appears at the same time to be a real human child with human parents and an elemental creature with the power to call upon the snow and ice who, in some unexplained and mysterious fashion, is reclaimed by Nature at the end of the book.

Popular magic realism that is poetic but undemanding, moving but not challenging, The Snow Child is an accomplished and impressive debut but at times, a little light-weight.