If you are looking for something to keep you occupied over the Christmas break – either cosied up in front of a roaring fire or barricaded in an air-conditioned room – then today’s book is definitely one to consider. I wasn’t sure that I was going to love this one because it’s not my usual sort of adult fiction, but The Snow Rose by Lulu Taylor, which we received for review from PanMacmillan Australia, sucked me in hook, line and sinker. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
Kate is on the run with her daughter, her identity hidden and her destination unknown to her husband and family. She’s found a place where she and Heather can be alone and safe, a huge old house full of empty rooms. But it turns out she’s not alone. There are the strange old ladies in the cottage next door, Matty and her blind sister Sissy. How long can Kate hide Heather’s presence from them? And then the newcomers arrive, the band of eccentrics led by the charming and charismatic Archer. Kate begins to realize that she is involved in something strange and dangerous, and the past she’s so desperate to escape is about to find her . . .
Read it if:
*you are a fan of stories that seamlessly blend contemporary and historical fiction in a twisty, intertwined way
*the idea of running away to a beautiful old isolated house sounds like paradise when adulting becomes all too much
*you prefer to organise your holiday accommodation through mysterious, untraceable companies offering employment to single ladies
*the likelihood of you being manipulated by a swindler is directly proportional to the youth, attractiveness, wealth and charisma of said swindler
What an absorbing book I found this to be! The story turned out to be little of what I expected, but better than my expectations nonetheless. The first thing you should know about The Snow Rose is that it is not one story, but two (possibly even three, depending on how you look at it) related but separate stories. The first plotline features Kate, who has run away with her daughter for reasons that are only hinted at in the beginning, but become clear further down the track. The second, related, storyline features past residents of the house, whose experience appears to be repeating itself with its new residents. As well as those two main storylines, there are also segues into moments in the present that look to be history repeating, and some focus on the people that Kate left behind when she left. All in all, this isn’t a basic relationship/finding-oneself type novel, as I expected it might be, but a complex, intricately woven combination of historical fiction and contemporary fiction with a hint of speculative fiction and the briefest of nods toward the paranormal thrown in.
The thing that I found most appealing about The Snow Rose was the fact that Kate, as the main character, seemed to be constantly evolving in her understanding of her bizarre situation and how it came to pass. At no point was I able to predict how her story would turn out because she is, in some senses, unreliable in her insight into her motivations and the outcomes that she is chasing. The old ladies that she meets while caretaking at the Big House, Sissy and Matty, provide a balance to Kate’s chaotic situation but also throw in new factors to complicate matters – Are they who they say they are? What do they actually know about the house’s history? Can they help Kate find her feet?
I loved the historical sections of the book. Apart from being an abrupt change of pace from the contemporary sections featuring Kate, the characters in the historical section were so vivid and the events so surprising that I was happy to keep coming back to this time period to see what might happen next. Like Kate, the main character in the historical plot line, Letty, is also going through some turbulent personal growth.
I suppose there may be some readers of this story who dislike the more bizarre, unexpected elements of it, given that these elements are quite unlikely, but these are exactly what lifted the story above your typical tortured soul story in my view. Kate’s story isn’t predictable. It is quite unlikely. There are elements throughout that will have the reader questioning what is real and what is not. And it’s these characteristics that had me totally absorbed in the lives of the characters.
I’d highly recommend this for readers who want to lose themselves in someone else’s life, because in the coiling plotlines of The Snow Rose, there is plenty of opportunity to do so.
Until next time,