My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour for Elisabeth Gifford’s A Woman Made of Snow and to Corvus books for sending me a copy of A Woman Made of Snow in return for an honest review.
In 2020 Elisabeth Gifford’s The Lost Lights of St Kilda was one of my books of the year and you can read my review of that book here. Previously it was a privilege to host guest piece from Elisabeth about the Harris setting for her book Secrets of the Sea House, alongside my review here and I have a review of the stunning The Good Doctor of Warsaw here.
A Woman Made of Snow was published by Corvus on 7th October 2021 and is available for purchase through the links here.
A Woman Made of Snow
A gorgeous, haunting, and captivating novel of a century-long family mystery in the wilds of Scotland, and one woman’s hunt for the truth.
Scotland, 1949: Caroline Gillan and her new husband Alasdair have moved back to Kelly Castle, his dilapidated family estate in the middle of nowhere. Stuck caring for their tiny baby, and trying to find her way with an opinionated mother-in-law, Caroline feels adrift, alone and unwelcome.
But when she is tasked with sorting out the family archives, Caroline discovers a century-old mystery that sparks her back to life. There is one Gillan bride who is completely unknown – no photos exist, no records have been kept – the only thing that is certain is that she had a legitimate child. Alasdair’s grandmother.
As Caroline uncovers a strange story that stretches as far as the Arctic circle, her desire to find the truth turns obsessive. And when a body is found in the grounds of the castle, her hunt becomes more than just a case of curiosity. What happened all those years ago? Who was the bride? And who is the body…?
My Review of A Woman Made of Snow
Caro’s married life is not quite what she anticipated.
It’s impossible to convey just how exquisite a writer Elisabeth Gifford is. From the very first line of A Woman Made of Snow to the final full stop, the beauty of the writing is almost luminous so that I loved this book. I can’t decide if I feel sorry for readers who’ve yet to discover Elisabeth Gifford’s writing because they are missing literary fiction of the highest quality, or jealous of them because they have such a wonderful treat in store.
Settings and descriptions are completely transporting in A Woman Made of Snow. Elisabeth Gifford writes with a painterly, almost photographic, quality that is just wonderful. I was completely entranced by her descriptions because they have the power to move the reader emotionally at the same time as providing a glorious sense of place. The landscape of ice is especially evocative and takes the reader on the same journey as Oliver as clearly as if they were by his side.
The plot is captivating. Weaving history, societal attitudes, mystery and relationships into a dual timeline that mesmerises the reader Elisabeth Gifford entertains completely so that I felt the emotions of Oliver, Charlotte, Caroline and Yarut as intensely as if they were my own. In fact, I felt a whole range of emotions reading A Woman Made of Snow from deep rage towards Sylvia through admiration for Charlotte to joy in other aspects that I can’t mention for fear of spoiling the read for others. I thought the manner with which the strands of the story became linked together was exceptional. A Woman Made of Snow is an absolute masterclass in entrancing writing.
I found all the characters real and vivid because alongside the drama, the more prosaic aspects of their lives add veracity to who they are, making them feel authentic. I loved watching the dynamics of the relationship between Martha and Caro unfold and found the feminist strand of the narrative developed through Charlotte hugely appealing. However, what touched me more than I anticipated, was the respect that Elisabeth Gifford gave to more minor characters like Mary and to the Inuit people so marginalised by the whaling fleets. This had the effect of making A Woman Made of Snow even more arresting and affecting, especially when underpinned by the meticulous research that has obviously gone into the story for the historical aspects.
Alongside the feminism and mystery in A Woman Made of Snow, other themes provide a rich texture that combine into a read that is of the highest quality. Attitudes to race, identity, social status, travel and exploration, the environment, the arts, family relationships, marriage and parenthood are just some of the aspects that pulsate through the narrative. A Woman Made of Snow might be a gloriously entertaining story, but it’s also a thought provoking and contemplative one too.
Evocative, entertaining and emotional, A Woman Made of Snow is a gorgeous book and I adored it.
About Elisabeth Gifford
Elisabeth Gifford grew up in a vicarage in the industrial Midlands. She studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University. She has a Diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford OUDCE and an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway. She is married with three children, and lives in Kingston upon Thames. A Woman Made of Snow is her fifth novel.
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