Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been suffering FOMO. All round the country are wonderful wintry scenes and here in South Lincolnshire it has remained stubbornly snow free. And then I remembered that the lovely Alison Menzies from Elliott and Thompson has sent me a surprise copy of Fifty Words for Snow by Nancy Campbell and so I’m delighted to review that book today.
Published by Elliott and Thompson, Fifty Words for Snow is available for purchase through the links here.
Fifty Words for Snow
Snow. Every language has its own words for the feather-like flakes that come from the sky. In Japanese we find Yuki-onna – a ‘snow woman’ who drifts through the frosted land. In Icelandic falls Hundslappadrifa – ‘big as a dog’s paw’. And in Maori we meet Huka-rere – ‘one of the children of rain and wind’.
From mountain tops and frozen seas to city parks and desert hills, writer and Arctic traveller Nancy Campbell digs deep into the meanings of fifty words for snow. Under her gaze, each of these linguistic snow crystals offers a whole world of myth and story.
My Review of Fifty Words For Snow
Fifty international words for snow.
My goodness, Fifty Words for Snow is a beautiful book in every sense of the word. It is glorious to look at with stylised blue and white frost inspired end papers that match the cover and a sensational snow crystal image on a contrasting blue background to accompany every one of the fifty entries. But physical attributes aside, the written contents are just wonderful. Beautifully researched with references at the end of the book so that readers can extend their enjoyment beyond the pages of Fifty Words for Snow, it was Nancy Campbell’s Prologue that initially captured me, her dedication to Anna and the intensity of emotion behind the book that made it all the more special.
There’s science, geography, ecology, religion, language, literature, history, philosophy, myth and culture and so much more weaving through every entry so that the reader is taken on a fascinating exploration of the world. Nancy Campbell’s writing is poetic and gorgeously descriptive. The opening paragraph to her entry 39. Ttutqiksribvik if presented physically differently on the page would make a glorious poem, for example, and I spent quite a long time rereading the words and visualising them as poetry rather than prose. And I think that’s one of the joys of Fifty Words for Snow. It certainly instructs and entertains, but Nancy Cambell’s writing has a quality that mesmerises even when, as an illustration, she is describing the reason for a 25 km/h lower speed limit in Estonia in her Jäätëë entry.
Fifty Words for Snow is magnificent. It transports the reader far from their own lives into other places from the comfort of their own home. Nancy Campbell’s writing educates subtly even as it distracts the reader, providing so much more than the sum of its fifty entries. I thought it was wonderful.
About Nancy Campbell
Photo by Annie Schlechter
Nancy Campbell is an award-winning writer, described as ‘deft, dangerous and dazzling’ by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. Her travels in the Arctic between 2010 and 2017 have resulted in several projects responding to the environment, most recently The Library of Ice: Readings in a Cold Climate, which was longlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize 2019. Her previous book on the polar environment, Disko Bay, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2016. She has been a Marie Claire ‘Wonder Woman’, a Hawthornden Fellow and Visual and Performing Artist in Residence at Oxford University. She is currently a Literature Fellow at Internationales Kunstlerhaus Villa Concordia in Bamberg, Germany.