A Woman Made of Snow was published earlier this month and I have been seeing glowing reviews all over social media recently. I enjoyed Elisabeth Gifford’s The Lost Lights of St Kilda, which I read last year, so I just had to buy myself a copy of this new one. Aren’t the colours on the cover just beautiful? Let’s see what the book is about.
About the book
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…?
I found this to be an engaging book right from the very intriguing opening chapter. I was just as captivated by the mystery of the missing bride as Caro and her husband Alasdair were. I really enjoyed the way the author gradually disclosed the background to the mystery not only by what Caro uncovered in the family archives but also with much of the story taking place in the past. I can’t say a lot about the story in the late 19th century as that would give away too much. However, I thought it was very cleverly done, the way the stories from the two time lines connected and what they revealed.
Another interesting aspect of the story was that of the relationships between the daughters-in-law and their mothers-in-law both in the distant past and the late 1940s. Although expectations were quite different in the two time scales, Caro’s relationship with her mother-in-law Martha was still sometimes rather fraught. I have to say that I did feel quite sorry for Martha at times but equally could understand how Caro as a new wife and new mother was feeling.
I also enjoyed the parts of the story set in the Arctic. It was fascinating to read about the whaling trade and the experiences of both the Scottish whalers and the Inuit people. Although I whole-heartedly disapprove of the whaling industry, it was interesting to read about what a harsh life it was for the Scottish sailors, away from home for so long and at the mercy of the elements.
A Woman Made of Snow is both a beautifully written love story and an absorbing mystery. The author writes so well about the different time periods in her book and combines atmospheric settings with a very compelling tale.
About the Author
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 College. She is married with three children, and lives in Kingston upon Thames