There was snow on the ground when I started my first snowy read of 2021. Then I read two more. More snowfall, a tweet from a fellow blogger, and suddenly the fourth snowy book of the year sprang into my hands. (Just how does that happen? 🥴)
Marcus Sedgwick’s Snow was meant to introduce me to Little Toller Books in February for #ReadIndies month, but when it arrived I just couldn’t wait. Timing is everything. How could I possibly resist this handsome hardback monograph when my favourite woods were doing such a marvellous impression of a landscape straight from Narnia?
Sedgwick is a lifelong snow lover. The book begins with fond childhood memories of playing in the snow in East Kent and moves with him to his current home in a mountain chalet in the Haute-Savoie region of France. On arrival he is questioned by a local: Do you like snow? I do, says Sedgwick. I hope so, says the local. It won’t take long until Sedgwick really and truly understands that interaction. As the chapters progress, Sedgwick shows exactly what it means to live in the mountains in the winter months. He also reminisces on some of his trips to polar regions and how some of his own hair-raising experiences have provided key plotlines for his novels.
Each of the six chapters – the structure a small homage to the snowflake – consists of reflections on Sedgwick’s life in the snow and discussions on various snow-related topics. I decided that the best way to summarise the latter was in an infographic. Start at twelve o’clock and read clockwise.
Everyone will have their own favourite section. Highlights for me were chapters 2 and 3. Chapter 2 provided a description of the miraculous properties of H2O and an explanation of just how snow can be of the wrong type for British Rail! Chapter 3 is going to stay with me for a long time. Will Sedgwick’s thoughts on Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain persuade me to pick it up again? (Poor Hans Castorp has been resting half-way up that mountain for nigh on three years now.) Sedgwick’s thoughts on Schubert’s Die Winterreise sent me on an entirely unexpected diversion … and one that got me started on my German Romanticism reading project … with a poet I’d never even heard of before.
But then I’m not a classical musician and classical musicians all know that Schubert wrote the music for Die Winterreise to lyrics provided by Wilhelm Müller. It was Sedgwick’s comments about the desolation of the final song in the cycle Der Leiermann (The Hurdy-Gurdy Man) that sent me on the journey to Dieter Fischer-Dieskau interpretations of the song cycle on Youtube, then to the Insel Taschenbuch edition of Die Winterreise, which is illustrated with German Romantic paintings. What a wonderful journey! As for Müller’s poems – has heartbreak ever been expressed so sublimely? These songs really deserve their own post.
So, look what started with just one tweet! Neither has this reading trail ended. I discover that there’s a whole series of Little Toller Monographs, another series of gorgeously illustrated Insel-Taschenbücher, a second Schubert song-cycle to fall in love with (Die schöne Müllerin), and a direct link from Schubert’s/Müller’s The Hurdy-Gurdy Man to something I will review for #ReadIndies month! (To be continued.)
PS, Karen, my bank manager will be in touch. 😉