Review: The Snow Song by Sally Gardner

What a complete treat reading The Snow Song was! I didn’t know much about it before I began and it’s lyrical, fairy-tale quality was exactly what I needed right now. A story that flits between the lines of reality and has a healthy amount of superstitions, ghosts and fables was perfect for me. Total escapism wrapped up in a beautiful writing.

Opening sentence: It was the sound of his violin that first cast a spell on Edith.

Once upon a time…

I was going through a little reading slump when I picked up The Snow Song and it helped me kick that as I was immediately enchanted by it. A story about the power of stories. And the power of love.

It effortlessly mixes other-worldly fairy tale elements with a setting in vague reality – a remote, small village in an unnamed country, in an unnamed year. Being so indistinct about the place really worked to add to the ethereal atmosphere.

Edith, daughter of the cabinet-maker, falls in love with a shepherd, Demetrius. But he is a stranger, the villagers distrust him for that reason. The unofficial leader of the village, the butcher wants to marry Edith (despite being wildly older than her), so he decrees that if Demetrius doesn’t return from looking after his sheep by the first snowfall, Edith must marry him (the butcher).

The story follows Edith as she waits for Demetrius’ return, and does what she has to to survive. No spoilers from me, but there are twists and shocks in this brilliant page-turning tale.

Edith’s grandmother was a famous storyteller and Edith has the gift of story weaving too. Many fables are entwined through the book and I loved this. It leant a poetic edge to the whole tone:

This was the snow song that storytellers of old had spoken of. Her grandmother had said that those who were innocent thought it was the music of the heavens, those who were guilty heard the devil’s pots and pans falling.

Nothing like a strong willed woman

The Snow Song is a fantastic feminist fairy-tale. Edith is such a strong woman. She lives in a time when superstition is king and women have no power. Any out-of-the-ordinary behaviour (such as having an independent thought) can be attributed to superstition and evil in order to keep women in their place. Edith, along with a few other village women, rebel against this and this is what gives the story its heart and passion.

The dread of the unknown was a bindweed of superstition that tied women to the house for fear of what might lie beyond the garden gate.

Note how many of the men though, do not get a name: the butcher, the cabinet maker, the cobbler are only referred to by their jobs, the women all have names.

Unexpectedly darker than I first thought it was going to be, The Snow Song addresses some serious themes; paying homage to the often very sinister fairytales it mimics. In some ways, this book reminded me of Jess Kidd, an author I love who also merges reality with other worldly, for exceptionally enjoyable results. A unique, engrossing, beautiful book, add The Snow Song to your winter reading list.

  • Get your copy here
  • Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC
  • Published by HQ 12th November 2020
  • 384 pages
  • My rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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