Today’s team review is from Judith.
Judith blogs here https://judithbarrowblog.com/
Judith has been reading Snow Angels by Jenny Loudon.
This is a story of love, of grief, of acceptance, of guilt, of survival, of secrets. There are many themes interwoven throughout: the love of nature, the inevitability of life moving on, the change of seasons, the exploration of human nature, as well as the more disturbing themes of racism, cynicism, suspicion, antagonism. All thoroughly explored by the author of Snow Angels.
And, as I wrote in my review of the last book I read by Jenny Loudon, Finding Verity, there are exquisite descriptions as well in Snow Angels that give a wonderful sense of place. Set in Oxford and Sweden, it is obvious that the author both knows and has researched both places extensively, and brilliantly captures the tone of each. As a consequence the pace of the narrative is vastly different.
The first quarter of the story narrates the inciting incident, the accident which completely changes the life of Amelie from wife, mother, daughter, to a grieving woman who has lost her husband, her child, her mother. The action in this section moves quickly, and in itself is shocking, portraying a reality that is distressingly realistic, and shows how tenuous life can be. It is well written, and the breadth of emotion explored here gives the characters so many layers that it is easy for the reader to see them, to immediately empathise with them.
In an almost unconscious need to escape the loss of the life she has known in Oxford, Amelie leaves her home, the friends she has there, and her work as a children’s nurse in a hospital, to escape to Sweden to stay with her grandmother, Cleome, who lives in a small cottage surrounded by a forest and close to a lake. And so begins the next phase of the book.
And this is where I show my subjectivity as a reader. Before I say anything about this I need to say that Jenny Loudon’s writing, when it comes to setting the scene is superb. This is truly poetic prose: expressive and lyrical, she conjures up wonderful images that juxtapose the emotions of her characters. The descriptions in these chapters, each headed to portray the different stages of the moon, the shifting of seasons, parallels the action within the plot.
However, as I say, this is where I reveal my preference in stories. The narrative slows up too much for me. I became aware that some scenes, some thoughts, some actions, some dialogue of the characters, were returned to, too often. And described in similar ways. I realise that this whole section is written to show the stages of grief, of acceptance, of moving on. But the repetition, albeit presented in numerous similar ways almost … not quite… but almost, tempted me to skip parts. I promise I didn’t!
What frustrated me was the fact that there were other subjects, other characters introduced into the plot that I feel could have been explored to more depth, integrated to balance the introspection of Amelie and Cleome. I became impatient of the contemplative mood within the text. There really are some brilliant minor characters in Snow Angels. But I felt they were only given a voice in a retrospective way; the reader is told their stories in a distanced, almost objective way, which, for me, lost the immediacy of their tragedies, their losses, the way their lives had fallen apart.
Which leads me to the last part of the story, the summing up of the action when the story is over. In one way it satisfied my curiosity; We are told what eventually happens to each and every one of the characters. In another, it disappointed me. The résumé almost felt like a synopsis, and, for me, emphasized the comparative slowness of the main section of the story.
Having said that some might wonder why I gave Snow Angels four star. Well it’s because I realise that, despite my preference for more action packed novels, I do like character led stories as well, and there are great characters in Jenny Loudon’s book. She also has a a very evocative style of writing that gives instant imagery that will appeal to many. In that vein I recommend Snow Angels to those readers.
An accident. That’s all it was.
Amelie Tierney is working hard, furthering her nursing career in Oxford. She has a loving husband and a small son, who is not yet two. She jogs through the streets of her beloved city most days, does not see enough of her lonely mother, and misses her grandmother who lives in a remote wooden house, beside a lake in Sweden.
And then, one sunny October morning, it happens—the accident that changes everything and leaves Amelie fighting to survive.
Set amid the gleaming spires of Oxford and the wild beauty of a Swedish forest, this is a story about one woman’s hope and her courage in the face of the unthinkable.
I’ve heard good things about Jenny Louden. Now I want to read this book. Terrific review!
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Nice review. I agree that if you like novels with good action, the more contemplative ones can seem slow. But there are some books I read for the pure pleasure of what was written.
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