What I thought:
Several years ago, I read and subsequently fell in love with a book called The Snow Child. It was one of these books that felt like it had a little bit of magic sprinkled between the pages and one I still think of even now. I had high hopes for this book and although I found it incredibly well written and still has the components of love story, history, adventure and magical realism, it didn’t quite have the same impact that The Snow Child did, for me.
Told through letters, diary entries and newspaper articles, this is the story of an exploration to chart Alaska in 1885 once the Americans had bought it from Russia. Colonel Allen Forrester leads the expedition of 2 men, an Indian woman and a dog through snow, ice, uncharted terrain and hostile natives. The harsh and unforgiving landscape is the perfect setting for this tale of hardship and survival so much so that I was able to feel the bitter cold and fatigue as they fight their way through melting ice, haunted valleys and unforgiving storms.
Waiting behind in the barracks is Allen’s wife, Sophie, who found out she was pregnant just before the start of the expedition. A woman ahead of her time, Sophie is passionate about nature and learns photography rather than keeping house, much to the suspicion and disdain of the other army wives. I loved the relationship between Allen and Sophie; accepting of one another and encouraging of passions and talents; it was real, and vivid and tangible.
I found the magic brought about by Ivey’s lyrical and poetic prose in The Snow Child not as evident in To the Bright Edge of the World, sadly. That’s not to say that there wasn’t a beautiful and evocative quality to the writing – there was, it just wasn’t as abundant in my opinion and while I am equally happy with a character driven novel (person or landscape) as with a plot-driven book, this didn’t quite manage to have the forward momentum for me at times.
What I did enjoy was the North American mythology but I do wish it had played a more important part as I really felt that it added something special and different.
I think I wanted to love this book more than I did. And that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it – I did, very much. Perhaps it was a case of great expectations and it didn’t quite hit the mark. Would I recommend? Yes, I absolutely would.