Light On Snow By Anita Shreve
I've always been a voracious reader and as soon as I finish a book am desperate to find the next. I could say I'll read anything but that isn't true - I'll read (almost) any genre but it has to be well written. I read for entertainment and escapism - and bad grammer and clumsy phrasing distract me from the narrative. My preferred reading is detective fiction, page turners with three dimensional characters and ideally some humour, my favourites being Ian Rankin's John Rebus, Reginald Hill's Andy Dalziel and Harlan Coben's Myron Bolitar.
For the Writer's Circle I've chosen Anita Shreve's Light On Snow because, as writers, you might find the author's technique interesting. I was given this book by a friend who "thought I might like it." In a bookshop the first page would have put me off. First person AND present tense. My two pet hates. So it remained unread for a long time until I was" desperate" for something to read. I liked it enough to get another by the same author!
The story is told by Nicky, a twelve year old girl. On page two we learn she is thirty now (this cleverly explains the capable descriptions) but she was twelve when she and her father found a newborn baby abandoned in deep snow in the forest near their home. We are taken forward in the present tense to the police's slightly aggressive questioning of Nicky's father, and obviously all the characters want to know who is the baby and why was she left to die in the snow.
The author uses the the police interview to inform the reader that Nicky and her father have only been in their isolated house in New England for two years. They came here from New York where he was an architect. So now the reader has two mysteries to ponder. Who is the baby's mother and what is her story and why did Nicky and her father leave the sophistication of New York for the isolation of their rather hick-sounding home in the forest?
Nicky changes into the past tense to drip feed the background story of why she and her father are alone; she describes them as half a family.
This technique works well. As we move from one scene to the next, the reader is in no doubt as to whether we are in the "present" - the mystery surrounding the baby, or in the "past" - as Nicky tells us how she and her father came to be here.
The descriptive prose is beautiful, the characters are realistic and well- drawn. The story is thought provoking. A masterclass in writing.