In a sleepy English village in 1944, Annabel and her son Daniel live in the shadow war. With her husband away, Annabel begins to feel isolated and begins to loose her grip on reality.
When mother and son befriend Hans, a German PoW consigned to a nearby farm, their lives are suddenly filled with thrilling secrets.
To Annabel, Hans is an awakening from the darkness that has engulfed her since Daniel’s birth. To her son, a solitary boy caught up in a magical world of fairy tales, he is perhaps a prince in disguise . But Hans has plans of his own and will soon set them into motion with devastating consequences.
The Boy Made of Snow is Chloe Mayer’s debut novel, and a very accomplished one. Inspired by the fairy tale The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson, with quotes from the book as chapter headings, this book has the essence and feel of a fairytale itself. It is beautifully written, ambitious novel with a haunting plot line that will draw you in.
The book is narrated by Annabel and her nine year old son, Daniel, in alternating chapters. This is clever literary device as it gives the reader the two different perspectives of events, and helps the reader ascertain what is really going on as neither are reliable narrators. Annabel has clearly suffered from post natal depression, an illness not recognised in the 1940’s. Her parents and husband did consider sending her to asylum, which frightened her so now she is able to put on a front and play at being a mother. She feels no connections with her son and has isolate herself frothier family and others the village. Daniel, knows there is something wrong and just wants to please his mother and be loved. He lives in his fairy tale world, where vagrants are trolls, the woods are enchanted and that a woodcutter could be a Prince. Somewhere in the middle of these narratives lies the truth of what is going on.
There is a varied cast of characters, not all nice. Annabel and Daniel are joined by that feeling of wanting to be loved and Hans offers this too them in different ways; as a lover and a friend. The Home Guard men, those unable to fight, bring a sense of menace in their dogged persecution of those not obeying the rules and in their treatment towards the PoW’s ; this was most certainly a response to their not being able to fight in the War. Both sets of grandparents have Annabel and Daniel’s best interest at heart but can be caustic in their treatment of Annabel, and her role as a mother.
The setting of the village and nearby woods is certainly very magical; for both Annabel and Daniel the woods represents a different world with a different set of rules, a place to escape daily life. As well as the magic, like all fairy tales, there has to be some badness there and this is in the guise of the Home Guard, with their violence and threatening behaviour. The historical setting is perfect for this story, it opens up many dilemmas faced at the time, problems not understood and prejudices of the era.
The Boy made of Snow is a novel of motherhood, childhood, relationships, war and consequences but most of all imagination. This is a very accomplished first novel, both in its writing and narrative; a haunting tale with a chill at its heart, perfect for this time of year.