With the last blast of March winter upon those of us on the US east coast – need something to curl up with whilst you’re snowed in? Why not try some of these classic books with wintery settings…
“The Snow Child” by Eowyn Ivey
Set in Alaska in 1920, this wonderful novel follows Jack and Mabel as they struggle to survive in the harsh environment they find themselves in. After building a child out of snow who mysteriously vanishes, they are drawn into the life of Faina – a young girl who appears to have stepped from the pages of a fairytale book. But is everything what it seems to be…
This book was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction and has won numerous awards.
“The Cider House Rules” by John Irving
Homer Wells has been brought up in an orphanage in Maine under the tutelage of Dr. Wilbur Larch. Isolated at St Cloud, he assists the doctor with caring for troubled mothers, delivering illegitimate children and taking them into the orphanage. When Homer meets a young couple who arrive seeking an illegal abortion, he finds himself wanting to explore the world beyond his upbringing.
This is a book full of heartbreak that encompasses the morality of abortion, war, love, disability and legacy.
“The Tenderness of Wolves” by Stef Penney
This book is full of suspense and adventure – part historical epic, part murder mystery, it follows a disparate band of wilderness residents as they seek to follow a mysterious set of tracks in the snow that they hope will lead them to the answers to a brutal crime that has been committed. The setting brings an eerie cruelty to the novel as the characters seek missing people, fugitives and the past before the snow covers the tracks left behind for good.
The novel won the Costa Book of the Year prize.
“Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy
There’s no winter harsher than a Russian winter and this classic novel is considered one of the greatest works of fiction ever produced. Following the doomed and tragic love affair between Anna and Count Vronsky, this epic story reveals the hypocrisies of nineteenth century Russian society through a sweeping look at familial and romantic relationships.
Often cited as the ‘greatest book ever written,’ it explores jealousy, faith, fidelity, family, progress and passion.
“Winter’s Tale” by Mark Helprin
When Peter Lake, a middle-aged Irish burglar decides to rob a house on the Upper West Side, little does he know that it will lead to love. The relationship between Lake and Beverly Penn, a free-spirited but ultimately doomed young girl is the perfect foil to that of Lake and local gang leader Pearly Soames, who sets his sights on destroying Lake. Set in a mythical, semi-Edwardian New York at the turn of the twentieth century, this novel has a mystical quality that will totally absorb you.
Heavy on the language – you need to set time aside for this one.
“Cold Mountain” by Charles Frazier
If epic sweeping historical fiction is your thing, you’ll love Cold Mountain. The novel follows the arduous journey of a civil war veteran, Inman, as he struggles to get home to his betrothed, Ada, who has been left behind to try and survive on her father’s farm with the help of a practical young drifter named Ruby. As their stories begin to weave back together, Inman and Ada have to confront how much has changed since Inman left – with the physical and political landscape, but also themselves.
This won the National Book Award for Fiction.
“Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley
Granted, the snow is mainly contained to the start and end of this classic Gothic tale, but it is still one of the most evocative pieces of Victorian science fiction in print. Victor Frankenstein, exhausted and found ranting in the Arctic wilderness, retells the tale of the creation of the monster that now stalks him through the wasteland. Originally developed from a ghost story told by Mary Shelley to her friends in Geneva when she was just 18 years old.
Don’t let the fact this is a school book classic put you off.
“A Breath of Snow and Ashes” by Diana Gabaldon
As the sixth book in the wildly popular Outlander series, I wouldn’t suggest diving in here without taking a look at the others. Set in 1772, Highland exile Jamie Fraser and his time travelling 20th Century wife, Clare, are commissioned to quell a growing rebellion in the American Colonies – but knowing the ultimate direction of the War of Independence, Clare and Jamie find themselves caught between knowing the future and living in the past.
This is a great romp through the 18th Century – dashing heroes, gutsy heroines and action and adventure galore.
“The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis
Is there truly a more perfect snow bound book than this children’s classic? I re-read the whole Narnia series every year and I am always in awe of how such simple, beautiful prose can evoke such a complex, magical world. Four children are swept into a magical adventure when they find a mysterious portal into a world trapped in permanent winter. Will they be able to break the spell and release Narnia from the grip of the White Witch?
Please, please, please read the book and don’t watch the movie.
“Fargo” by Joel and Ethan Coen
Alright – it’s not technically a novel, it’s a screenplay – but it still ticks my boxes for a read that perfectly balances tension and humour. Pregnant policewoman Marge Gunderson finds herself investigating a murder in snowy Minnesota. Trying to maintain her professional dignity in the face of numerous quirky personalities, Marge needs to solve this quickly if she’s to get out alive…
For this one you can watch the movie!
So whilst the wind is blowing and the snow is snowing – try some of these, wrap up warm and put the kettle on. It’ll be over before you know it.