In 1920s Alaska, Jack and Mabel have staked everything on a fresh start in a remote homestead, but the wilderness is a stark place, and Mabel is haunted by the baby she lost many years before. When a little girl appears mysteriously on their land, each is filled with wonder, but also foreboding. Is she what she seems, and can they find room in their hearts for her?

The Snow Child is an international bestseller and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2013. I’ve been meaning to read it for a while, but now that I’ve done so I can’t really see what all the fuss is about.

This is a strange book of two parts. On the one hand you have Jack and Mabel struggling with the reality of their new life in Alaska, eking a living from the harsh land with its long winters and mosquito-ridden summers. On the other hand, you have the couple’s encounters with a mysterious little girl who no one else has ever seen, and who may or may not be real.

Personally I much preferred the former. Ivey really excels at describing the harsh but beautiful Alaskan wilderness. She also excels at describing the fraught loneliness that has come to envelop her two main characters, the gaps that have opened up between them even when they live in such close proximity to each other. It was this that I wish she had focused on, rather than introducing vague elements of the supernatural, which only served to distance me from any empathy I had felt for the characters.

I never warmed to the character of the eponymous snow child. Maybe that was Ivey’s intention, but it meant that my mind started to wander whenever I read any scenes with her in them. Her presence is never fully explained and some half-hearted attempts at a back story only serve to make things more confusing.

There isn’t a whole lot that happens in terms of plot, either. Several times I found my eyes running ahead on the page, seeking some excitement, but unfortunately there was little to keep me engaged, especially as it was clear almost from the very beginning what was going to happen at the end.