Winter is Here, Jon Snow

Some people love winter, love the brisk air, the blinding glare, the crystal-clear night skies, soft fluffy snow and cups of steaming hot chocolate. Other people hate the freezing cold, the knifing winds, the treacherous roads, bare trees, and endless brown mud and slush clinging to shoes, cars, and pet feet tracking through the house.

For me, winter is a romantic time, curled by a fireplace (wood, gas, or electric) before a window with long velvet drapes (one of my favorite possessions), reading a book in a favorite chair while snow swirls outside the window and an animal lounges at my feet. It means a stew bubbling on the stove, fresh bread in the oven, or perhaps fresh shortbread cookies and a cup of Earl Gray tea by that fire. Perhaps it’s a holiday, with candles and lights and decorations, waiting for company to make it through the snow. Yeah, yeah, there’s no groundsman to shovel the walks when it’s over, I have to do it myself, but for a few hours I’m lost in an old English fantasy, there’s a mystery in the air, a challenge ahead, but love and fortune win in the end (note: I have never achieved this fantasy, but I keep hoping).

English Tales of Winter

Which made me think: why are all those images we cling to English fantasies? Sure, that period of literature is within what’s called the Little Ice Age, which ran from the 1300’s to the 1890’s, killing off the Vikings in Greenland and creating all those iconic Currier and Ives scenes, but it also put those chunks of ice in Washington Crossing the Delaware, and in 1816, with the dust of the exploded volcano Mount Tambora in the air, summer never arrived, and temperatures were still below freezing in June. Where is the American winter tale? American stories tend to be about blizzards, hardship, starvation, and ghosts. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allen Poe, and Washington Irving are hardly on par with Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights. Reading about the Donner party probably isn’t a good idea before eating stew.

American Tales of Winter

The only American “winter” tales I know well are children’s literature: The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Left By Themselves by Charles Paul May, the semi-historical Seven Alone by Honore Morrow, and the absolutely timeless endearing tale of Mandy, by Julie Andrews Edwards (Yes, Mary Poppins herself. Adults will love this, too!). But where are the adult books? Problem is, not much adult American literature of that period gives off that type of security.

That period of literature we think of is called the Romantic movement and includes Gothic literature, dealing with mystery, spiritualism, ghosts, hauntings, and torturous love – Frankenstein, Les Miserables, Dorian Gray, Hunchback of Notre Dame, A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist – some of our most famous classics, running from about 1760 through the Victorian age, around 1890.  America in 1776 was not only new and still forming, it was mostly unsettled, and people in the colds of Fort Duquesne, Fort Niagara, and Fort Cumberland were more concerned with staying alive than writing literature. Of course you still had authors, but not to the degree England – a stable civilization for 1200 years – did. While Heathcliff was brooding the lonely moors, Americans were exploring and giving us stories like Last of the Mohicans, Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Moby Dick, and The Scarlet Letter. Not the same, and certainly not the same as being snowed in and wringing one’s hands on the family estate. The American experience is uniquely American in that regard.

Just because our snow stories don’t go back to King Wenceslas (ok, Wenceslas was Bohemian/ Czechoslovakian, but the song, 900 years later, is English) doesn’t mean American literature isn’t good, it just means it’s different. Maybe you’ll have to settle for cotton twill drapes and a medium double-latte with a space heater and a Snuggie. If you love gothic literature, delve into a classic or something newer; there are hundreds of books (and films!) to choose from. If you love reading about snowy days while curled in a chair listening to the winds howl, try some of these modern tales (and films):

Office Girl by Joe Meno

The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris

 Snow by Orhan Panuk

 

  Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

The Snow Child  by Eowyn Ivey

Wolf Winter by Celia Ekback

Winter Solstice  by Rosamunde Pilcher

The Book Thief by  Markus Zusak

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

 The Shining  Stephen King

Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg, 

Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin

Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

I Love Snow

snow 2

I love snow.  Yes, love it!  I know, I’m in the minority – most people tend to complain snowflake 1about snow.  We live in New England.  Snow is a way of life.  Sure, I’m not thrilled with having to scrape the frost and snow off my car, dig the car out, deal with a dead battery, but still, I love snow.  It always makes me smile snowflake 2when I see the flakes falling.  No matter my mood, snow lifts me up.  Out of curiosity, I typed ‘snow’ in the search box of our catalog and 1,224 items came up!  There are children’s books, movies, adult fiction and non-fiction.  Below are a few adult titles that might be of interest.  If nothing appeals to you, take a look at our catalog.  There is sure to be something out of the 1,224 titles that you might want to check out.

the snow brideThe Snow Bride  Debbie Macomber – While journeying to Alaska to marry a man she met on the Internet, Jenna Walsh is kidnapped by Reed Kenner, a fellow passenger, who will do anything to prove that she is making the biggest mistake of her life.

snow in augustSnow in August – Pete Hamill – An unlikely friendship between an eleven-year-old Irish Catholic boy and a lonely rabbi from Prague in 1947 Brooklyn has the two opening new windows of understanding with each other but still fighting the prejudices of the day.

waiting for snow in havanaWaiting for Snow in Havana – Carlos Eire – A survivor of the Cuban Revolution recounts his pre-war childhood as the religiously devout son of a judge,and describes the conflict’s violent and irrevocable impact on his friends, family, and native land.

the snow queenThe Snow Queen – Michael Cunningham – A heartbroken man turns to religion after seeing a vision in the sky above Central Park, while his musician brother takes drugs he thinks will help him compose a ballad for his seriously ill wife.

last snowLast Snow – Eric Van Lustbader – In the aftermath of an American senator’s death on a political trip, presidential Special Advisor Jack McClure is dispatched to investigate a perilous trail throughout Eastern Europe, an assignment that is complicated by his efforts to protect two unlikely companions.

mercy snowMercy Snow – Tiffany Baker – A tragic bus accident has devastating repercussions for two families from opposite sides of the tracks of a tiny New England paper milling town.

sisters of heart and snowSisters of Heart and Snow – Margaret Dilloway – Two estranged sisters reconnect when they return to their childhood home in response to their mother’s dementia diagnosis and one of the pair takes on her mother’s power of attorney.

whiter than snowWhiter Than Snow – Sandra Dallas – When a devastating avalanche traps nine children walking home from school in 1920, the disaster has life-changing effects on the people who live in the small Colorado town where it occurs.