For Christmas I got a book that had been on my wish list since I first heard about its upcoming publication: Eowyn Ivey’s latest novel To the Bright Edge of the World. I’m glad that I finally got a chance to read it.
Alaska, 1885. Lieutenant Colonel Allen Forrester and his handful of men are on their way to try the impossible. They want to scout the newly acquired territory with large uncharted parts that lay beyond the Wolverine River.
At the same time Allen’s wife Sophie has to sit tight at Vancouver Barracks in Oregon, where she is torn between disappointment at not being able to accompany her husband to Alaska, and the anticipation of the upcoming birth of their first child.
To the Bright Edge of the World is an Epistolary Novel that is largely told using Allen and Sophie’s diary entries. The frame story is set in the present, where Allen’s great-nephew Walter from Montana and Josh, a museum curator from Alaska, exchange letters about Sophie’s and Allen’s legacy. While their correspondence complements the plot at first, it gets a bit too much near the end of the novel.
It took me quite some time to warm up to Bright Edge to be honest, but when I did, I was hooked and didn’t want to go to sleep. I wanted to know more about the characters’ fate, wanted to see how clever Sophie dealt with the boring life at the barracks, wanted to accompany Allen and his men through snow and ice in Alaska spring, marveling at the breathtaking and solitary landscape. So every time I opened the book I almost felt like Josh the museum curator.
With To the Bright Edge of the World Eowyn Ivey has created an epistolary novel that reads so convincingly that I almost believed the journal entries and letters to be real. Even though it is inspired by Lieutenant Henry T. Allen’s journey into Alaska, I had to remind myself more than once that this book is a work of fiction and that the magical elements in the story are too good to be true. So if you’re up for an adventure and love the North as much as I do you’re in for a treat.
Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for a couple who have never been able to conceive. Jack and Mabel are drifting apart—he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone, but they catch sight of an elusive, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.
This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and leaves blizzards in her wake. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who seems to have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in the Alaska wilderness, life and death are inextricable, and what they eventually learn about Faina changes their lives forever.
I mainly chose to read this book because of its setting. I love the themes of wilderness and winter. And I love Alaska. What I also liked very much but what didn’t play a major role in the book, was that the book was set in the 1920s. Ms Ivey did a great job constructing the setting for The Snow Child. I really felt the cold and the woods. I could smell the trees, the water and the snow. And after all these months, I still can.
I also fell in love with the characters. I was able to empathize with all of them even though they were so different. This also brings me to the story. Especially Mabel changes with the arrival of Faina. She becomes a happier but sometimes more restless person. As a reader, I was able to feel all these emotions and never doubted them. Ms. Ivey writes a story full of joy and sadness. She manages to balance these two components and even though a feeling of loss has stayed with me since I’ve finished this wonderful novel, its storyline and setting are so beautiful that they will outbalance this feeling.