Cold Enough For Snow

Jessica Au's award winning novella, Cold Enough For Snow, was the other extra book I picked up from the Athenaeum Library last week -- at less than a hundred pages, it doesn't really count as a book, right? 

Wrong. Reading Cold Enough For Snow is like taking a leisurely swim in cool, still water -- bracing, but refreshing. It's a meditative little book, following a trip to Japan by a mother and grown up daughter. The daughter reports their small excursions, interspersed with memories of her childhood, working in a restaurant, travelling with her husband to his childhood home. There's no plot. We observe the weather, the path through the woods, the museum exhibitions; we see the daughter's attempts to please her mother, usually not guessing exactly right; the book seems to be about our essential inability to really know other people, the way they are sealed inside themselves, occasionally revealing glimpses of their inner, private lives, and perhaps our inability to know ourselves. (This theme echoes the similar preoccupations of Virginia Woolf, who I was reading about at the same time in Square Haunting.)

I admired Cold Enough For Snow and I can see why it's won so many accolades. It's unusual and pleasurable to experience a novel so different from so many contemporary novels with their emphasis on 'hooking' the reader from the first page, delivering non-stop action or plot twists. Au's book is a reminder that novels can also be small and quiet and beautiful and thoughtful. I think Cold Enough For Snow will stay with me when some novels are quickly forgotten.

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