The Snow Song by Sally Gardner
Once upon a time, a young shepherd named Demetrius, whose eyes were as blue as the winter sky, came to an isolated village where the locals always perceived outsiders as a threat. He and the cabinet maker’s daughter Edith fell in love, but within this community people’s lives were ruled by cruel patriarchal traditions and conservatism: “The village being small and gossip cheap, and love a rare thing hardly ever seen”. Sally Gardner’s The Snow Song is a fairy tale in the genre of magical realism. After an easy start imbued with atmospheric folklore motifs, the work smoothly develops into a story with dark plot twists.
Despite the apparent simplicity of the narrative and the fantastic nature of the world, the novel explores many contemporary issues. This remote society suppresses women and their freedom; families are violent and abusive; marriages are arranged; and the locals are superstitious, dependent on tradition and hostile to strangers. The author shows how fear of the unknown and the new feeds hatred and prejudice.
The mention of sex and violence contrasts with the fairytale setting bringing a poignant and dark tone to the writing. Thus, the fable is intertwined with the cruelty of the real world: “You say men will be men – what does that mean for women? Will women be women? No, because when we are, we’re too loud. We’re told to be silent.”
The theme of silenced women permeates the text: Edith is waiting for her beloved, who promised to return to her before the first snow, but when she realises that he will not come back, the heroine loses her ability to speak. Other characters have also become accustomed to staying silent about their pain and hiding the traumatic situations and violence they have encountered for years.
Overall, The Snow Song is a very unique work, in which sometimes the tone and style of the narrative contrast with the theme. Contrary to becoming a minus, though, this acts as an incredible advantage, leaving the reader with a pleasant aftertaste. In the preface, Gardner says, “I didn’t think I could write a book about snow”, but snow envelops the novel, imbuing it with a distinct fairytale atmosphere and new meaning. The chronicle is a symbol of rebirth and new beginnings, in which there is room for freedom and love: “If you don’t like the story, you are telling yourself, make up a different one and change the ending”.
The Snow Song is published by HarperCollins at the hardback price of £12.99, and is available in the UK on 12th November 2020. For further information visit here.