The Snow-Woman

The Snow-Woman
by Stella Gibbons
Publication Date: December 18, 1969
Pages: 228
Rating: ★★★

I suppose I was lonelier than I knew.

It’s the 1960s, and Maude Barrington, now in her seventies, has kept life firmly at bay since the deaths of her three brothers in World War I. But when an unexpected visitor convinces Maude to visit old friends in France (and an old nemesis, who persistently calls her “the snow-woman”), she is brought face to face with the long-suppressed emotions, sorrows, and misunderstandings of the past. Upon her return to London, she finds her frozen life invaded by a young mother and her son (born on great aunt Dorothea’s sofa, no less) who have been more or less adopted by her long-time maid Millie. And Maude finds the snow of years of bitterness beginning to melt away.

In The Snow-Woman, first published in 1969 and out of print for decades, Stella Gibbons has created one of her most complex and poignant, yet still very funny, tales-of aging, coming to terms, and rediscovering life. This new edition features an introduction by twentieth-century women’s historian Elizabeth Crawford.

The Snow-Woman was my latest venture into the works of Stella Gibbons. While I have not found another book of hers yet, that matches my enjoyment of Cold Comfort Farm or Starlight, I generally enjoy Gibbons’ books and do think they are underrated.

The Snow-Woman was delightful, though not riveting, which is what made out most of my rating. I was delighted that there is no romance element in the story, but that there is whole lot about the crumbling of preconceptions and biases, and that in its own little way this book was, as it turned out, a fair substitution for reading A Christmas Carol at this time of year.

Now, the story is neither set at Christmas nor does it involve any sort of traditional Christmas message, but the overall sentiments seem to be the same as we watch the story unfold and wait to to see if the Snow-Woman will melt in the end.

One of the twists in the story was a bit predictable, but there were still plenty of plot developments that kept me reading. Oh, and I might be in the minority, but I loved our protagonist, 70-year-old Maude Barrington, right from the start.