Book Review: The Snow Child

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

“What a tragic tale! Why these stories for children always have to turn out so dreadfully is beyond me. I think if I ever tell it to my grandchildren, I will change the ending and have everyone live happily ever after. We are allowed to do that, are we not Mabel? To invent our own endings and choose joy over sorrow?” – The Snow Child⁣

Set in Alaska in the 1920’s, The Snow Child tells the tale of a childless couple as they embark on a new life as homesteaders in the northernmost frontier. Life is harsh, desolate and bleak until the arrival of a young girl from the forest, whose appearance coincides with the morning after the couple had built their very own girl in the snow. Could they be one and the same?

I really enjoyed The Snow Child; it was both magical and poignant. The story deals with multiple themes, one of them being ‘cabin fever’, which made it an interesting read during lockdown. Ivey transports the reader to the snowy Alaskan wilderness in the depths of winter; it is both bleak and beautiful. She also paints a vivid picture of the struggles of life on the homestead in a way that felt so real and relatable. I loved that Ivey chose to give a familiar story such an unfamiliar and wild setting. The setting at the start is harsh and unforgiving, but it transforms with the arrival of the young girl. 

It was a heartbreaking read at times, watching the relationship between Mabel and Jack go through its ups and downs even at their age could be sad to watch, as was the focus on their dissatisfaction at being left childless. As someone that is not sure if they want to have children, it left me with lingering questions about the future consequences of the decisions I make now.

Despite this, the book completely captured my love for fairy tales. It is mystical, fantastical and full of love, loss and heartbreak. I am usually a HEA kind of reader, but the bittersweet ending was perfect for this story, especially once you know the origins of the fairytale. For me, the mark of a good story is one that lingers long after you have closed the book and this one certainly has stayed with me ever since. If you are looking for a gentle winter read or the perfect holiday gift, then this could be the book for you.

The Snow Child is my Book of the Month for December – everyone who is subscribed to my newsletter by the 14th of December will be in with the chance of winning a free copy of The Snow Child in eBook format (if you have already read this book, I am happy for you to pick another eBook of similar value instead).

As part of my Fairytale Origins series, I have explored the origin of the snow maiden myth – read my post here.

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