Snowflake by Louise Nealon – Book review

I finished Snowflake last week and I’m still thinking about it. This is Irish author Louise Nealon’s debut novel. It’s an engrossing, really funny, cannily written coming-of-age story about Debbie White, an 18-year old Irish woman who lives on her family Dairy farm and is taking her first tentative steps towards independence by heading off to university – to study English at Trinity College.

Opening sentence: My uncle Billy lives in a caravan in a field at the back of my house.

No two snowflakes are the same

From the title, you might think this book is going to be packed full of woke phrasing and ideas about delicate Millennials and although that version of the word is referenced, this novel really quite movingly takes snowflake imagery and breaks it down to represent nuances and individual quirks, which I really liked.

‘I can’t imagine someone going through life without grasping the concept of the iconic six-armed snow crystal,’ I say.

So, the story: at uni, Debbie is shy nervous and unsure how to make friends. Luckily, she is befriended by the far more confident Xanthe who takes charge of their friendship. Debbie has to then balance her home life (her mother, Maeve and uncle, Billy) with the person she is trying to become at uni, while also facing up to a few home truths about why she acts in certain ways.

Debbie grips your heart from the early pages. So well written, it was not difficult to see flashes of my own wandering 20s in her and feel fully invested in her story. Pretty much every key character we meet has layers and things that are slowly revealed. Snowflake is written in such a thoughtful and nuanced way – every sentence has a purpose and is a delight to read.

Ocean. Say it out loud. You can taste the sound of it in your mouth.

But why do you have to end?

The Trinity College setting and exploration of young people’s feelings obviously puts you in mind of Normal People by Sally Rooney while reading, but Snowflake has its very own unique voice. It’s exploration of dreams, their meaning and impact on life was an element I wasn’t expecting but really enjoyed.

I’ve never kissed a boy that I actually fancy. I don’t know what that would feel like.

One thing though – I felt this book just ended abruptly. I wanted to know more about Debbie and her family! There were a lot of plot points that were left open and I absolutely would have loved to learn more about, fingers crossed for a sequel.

I also read this short story by Louise Nealon, which is so similar in tone and ideas to Snowflake, you can really see her voice and how she draw from her life and I’m excited to read more by her.

  • Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC;
  • Get your copy of Snowflake here;
  • Published by Manilla Press 13th May 2021;
  • 304 pages;
  • My rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

9 thoughts

  1. Great review! I really like the sound of this. I like the way the author has used the term to show people’s individual quirks.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Sounds great. You know it’s been a good read when you’re still thinking about it long after reading it!


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