Review published on December 2, 2016.
Snow. That weird substance that isn’t quite ice and isn’t quite rain. Its appearance in winter brings screams of delight from the young and the young at heart. Other people are equally happy to see the back of it. It is an icy blanket that smothers and softens the spiky winter skyline, bringing an ethereal and transformative silence to the landscape. It is this substance that has captivated Marcus Sedgwick since his childhood. He has bought this obsession into adult life too, preferring the colder parts of the world over sun-kissed beaches, so much so that he is the owner of a chalet high in the Alps.
You like snow? Yes, we said. He blinked a couple of times, then frowned, deadly serious. I hope you do, he said.
In six chapters, mirroring the perfect shape of the snowflake, Sedgwick looks at the way that snow has inspired art and literature through the ages, before clearing the paths to discover the science that creates these little marvels of symmetry. There are few legends that have snow as an element, but those that do are powerful and deep in their meaning. It is a unique substance, which can bring death and destruction, and life too as he describes the wonders of a material that whilst cold, can also keep you warm. Softly falling snow has the ability to silence everything and walking out in it will touch every sense that you possess.
Today is one of those days when it appears that it has been snowing since time began.
Snow is a short, intense, beautifully written and perfectly formed book, each word carefully chosen for maximum effect. It is a lovely mix of fact, myth and personal stories as Sedgwick tells of his deep passion for the white stuff. He makes us rethink our memories of winter days long gone, of snowball fights, of the wrong kind of snow and school days missed. But, it is also a warning; the effects of climate change means that some people may never see snow in any quantity again. It is a wonderful read and a real gem of a book.
Paul Cheney 5/4
Snow by Marcus Sedgwick
Little Toller Books 9781908213402 hbk Oct 2016