Cold comfort

The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey, Headline Review, RRP £14.99, 448 pages

It is 1920 and on Alaska’s Wolverine river Jack and Mabel are struggling to survive their first full winter as pioneer farmers when they are startled to see a blonde child in the snowy forest. Is she flesh and blood or a delusion brought on by cabin fever? Could she really be a snow girl come to life?

Alaskan bookseller Eowyn Ivey’s much-hyped debut draws inspiration from the Russian fairy tale Snegurochka (or The Snow Maiden). Mabel knows the fable, and that none of the alternate endings is happy. The plot turns on whether she and Jack, who are still grieving the death of their own child, can manage to create their own ending “and choose joy over sorrow”.

Ivey handles the transitions between the magical and the mundane with skill. Ultimately, this is a story about finding love in unexpected places, and very winning it is too – full of fire and ice and just about the right dose of sentimentality. The Snow Child is a sure bet for this year’s bestseller list.

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