I bring you another fabulous find from Rosie’s Book Review Team. Thanks to her for her hard work and to the rest of the team for their ongoing support and inspiration.
Snow Angels by Jenny Loudon
Amelie Tierney is working hard, furthering her nursing career in Oxford. She has a loving husband and a small son, who is not yet two. She jogs through the streets of her beloved city most days, does not see enough of her lonely mother, and misses her grandmother who lives in a remote wooden house, beside a lake in Sweden. And then, one sunny October morning, it happens—the accident that changes everything and leaves Amelie fighting to survive. Set amid the gleaming spires of Oxford and the wild beauty of a Swedish forest, this is a story about one woman’s hope and her courage in the face of the unthinkable. Praise for Jenny Loudon: ‘The writing is superb—literary in many ways—with vivid settings, filled with quite exceptional descriptions of the natural world… There are moments of lightness and humour—those slices of life that make the whole feel so real—and others when you feel at your core the frustration, the despair, the sheer impossibility… quite stunning.’ Anne Williams, Romantic Novelists Association Media Star of the Year, 2019
About the author:
Jenny Loudon is a British novelist whose work includes SNOW ANGELS, a moving and uplifting tale of recovery after loss, and the bestselling love story FINDING VERITY. She read English and American Literature at the University of Kent in Canterbury and holds a Masters in The Modern Movement. She lives with her family in the English countryside.
Learn more about Jenny Loudon at
I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.
I had never come across Jenny Loudon before, but I don’t think this will be the last of her books I read. This is a beautiful, poignant, and moving novel, and I do not hesitate to recommend it, despite it being also terribly sad at times, and people who have experienced a recent loss might find it a bit hard to read (although, it is also inspiring and full of light).
Amelie, who lives in Oxford and was born there but whose mother is Swedish, has visited Sweden often and speaks perfect Swedish, suffers a terrible loss. She loses her family, almost in full, and although she tries, going back to work seems impossible to her, and she decides to give up her profession as well. She finds refuge with her Swedish grandmother, Cleome, who lives in a lovely cottage by a lake, close to a forest, and this is the story of her (and their) grief, their healing process, her acceptance of the situation, and the eventual rebuilding of her life, a new beginning, and a recovery of sorts.
This is not only the tale of these people. The story is told in the third-person, mostly from the point of view of Amelie and Cleome, but also of some of the other characters, and the author does a great job at describing their emotions, their thoughts, their psychological makeup, and making us feel as if we were inhabiting their skins. There are quite a few secondary characters, all interesting in their own right, and some we get to know better than others, but nature and the seasons play a fundamental part in the story. Cleome is very attuned to the rhythms of nature, the land, the lake, the trees, the creatures, and she picks up herbs, goes foraging, and engages in little ceremonies to give thanks for the many gifts the land bestows on her. The descriptions of the landscape are as good, if not better than those of the characters, and the healing powers of time and nature play an important part in the novel. I’ve never visited Sweden, but after reading this book, I am eager to do so.
I have mentioned grief before, and it is accompanied by survivor’s guilt, a desperate search for a guilty party, for meaning, and for an explanation, creating a totally realistic picture of two women confronting a tragedy beyond their imaginations. Apart from this, the novel also explores other themes, like motherhood, conventional and chosen families, secrets, political changes in Europe, immigration policies, in Sweden in particular, how to adapt to a new culture, prejudice (both, from a different culture and within one’s own culture), intolerance, romance, and love… Helen, a close friend and neighbour of Cleome, is a doctor and volunteers working with immigrants, and although this is only a small part of the story, there is one of the main characters, Tarek, who gets to explain his experience as an asylum seeker (from war-torn Syria) in a compelling way, and he shows an understanding of loss and love which inspires Amelie in many ways. I did learn about something called ‘resignation syndrome’, which seems to be a unique phenomenon suffered by some young immigrants in Sweden, and a very challenging one. (Helen compares it to Snow White, and it makes sense if you remember when Snow White is given the poisoned apple and falls into a kind of deep sleep, still alive but with no external signs of it).
I have already mentioned the effectiveness of the descriptions, and the style of writing is gorgeous, lyrical, poetic, and packs a big emotional punch. It conveys images of breathtaking beauty together with truly heartbreaking moments, although, thankfully, there are also bright and hopeful moments, and those increase as the novel progresses. Readers experience the landscapes, the sensations, and the emotions vividly, and there were moments when I was transfixed by my immersion into that magical world. The author’s deep knowledge of Sweden and her connection to it are explained in the author’s acknowledgements, which, as usual, I recommend reading.
The ending is perfect for the novel, and it will please particularly those who like to have everything tied-up, as we get to catch up on all the characters more than a year after the end of the story, and that answers many questions most readers might have.
So, as I have said at the beginning, I recommend this novel to anybody who enjoys beautiful writing, contemplative stories, and those where emotions and psychological insights take precedence over adventures and action. I have mentioned recent grief, and I know that each individual going through it has a very different way of coping with their emotions, but those for whom reading about the subject is useful, will find much to inspire them and bring them hope in this novel.
For those of you who enjoy a little sample of the writing, here are a few paragraphs:
Tiny, fairy-like, nameless insects danced in a pale sunbeam that pierced the tree canopy. The air was full of music—cheerful tunes from a multitude of hidden birds. The sounds were beautiful and heartfel, and her grandmother was right to question it: why did they sing like this? Why bother?
‘You know, all these people in power? They think one more bomb will bring peace. All we ever hear is that they are killing people to get peace, using chemical weapons to secure peace. One more war will bring peace. Are they crazy? Do they not listen to themselves? How did a bomb ever bring peace, I ask you?’
‘Grief is like a rucksack. You might have to carry it for a long time. Sometimes, when you have had enough though, you can take it off and put it down. And sometimes, you can take things out of the rucksack and leave them by the roadside. You won’t have to carry everything forever but you will probably always be carrying something.’
If you want to know a bit more about Resignation Syndrome, I found these two articles, and some of the things described in the first article appear in the novel.
Thanks to the author for this wonderful book, thanks to Rosie and her team for keeping us going, and thanks to all of you, most of all, for reading, sharing, commenting, liking, blogging, and being there. Keep smiling!