Read #125

Cold Enough for Snow is going to be one of my novels of the year, it is only just April, but I am already sure of this. On finishing it, I started it straight over again. It will probably just be one of my favourite novels, full stop.

There is something familiar yet intangible about it. It is quiet, undemonstrative, peaceful, and in being so, it allows room: there is an overwhelming feeling of stillness at the centre of this book; like calmly holding your breath. It has a strangely undefinable quality which is utterly engaging. This quiet writing is saying a huge amount.

Ostensibly, a simple tale of a woman who takes her mum on holiday for a few days, to Japan: somewhere she visited once a few years before with her partner, but where her mum has never been. You have the feeling that mother and daughter have never really been close, and that this holiday is some attempt by the daughter to bring them closer. They travel in October, because the narrator forgot that this was the start of Typhoon season – there is a lot of rain. They visit some tourist sites, go shopping, have a couple of meals out, memories are evoked. Altogether unremarkable stuff…and yet.

It is really hard to shake the idea that this is a ghost story, or some kind of delusion on the part of the daughter. The reported interactions with her mum are so slight, so glancing. The conversations sound a little off-kilter, like two slightly separate conversations are being reported back one on top of the other. It is peculiarly destabilising for the reader.

The writing is beautiful – this passage is on the architecture and ambience of a small church they are visiting, which has a glass cross inserted in the wall of the building to allow the light in:

The effect was riveting, not unlike staring out at the daylight through the opening of a cave. And perhaps, I said to my mother, this too was what it had felt like to be in the earliest churches, when nature itself was still a force in the world, visceral and holy. I said also that the architect had originally intended the cross to be unsealed, so that air and weather would have gusted through the openings, like the will of god itself.

It is 94 generous, expansive pages and in a time when we are trying to find space to breathe, to find the opportunity to slow down and consider the world, this thin slice of sublime is highly recommended.

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