Break Out the Better Hot Chocolate: Great Wintry Adult Fiction

I know it’s in your cupboard: the really decadent hot chocolate powder.  The tin that you received at the office party last year and have been hoarding at home.  Yes, that one.  Even your roommates don’t know about it.  Well, I won’t tell and you don’t have to share.  But you’re about to need to make a steaming cup of it – with marshmallows on top, don’t be chintzy -- because I’ve got a few titles to suggest, some great adult fiction in which winter plays a significant role. All are available for you to check out at OC Public Libraries.

Winter’s Tales by Isak Dinesen
I read this collection of short stories in college for a Scandinavian literature course and really loved it.  I remember my professor noting that the mood of Scandinavian literature can be influenced by authors’ perceived geographic isolation from the rest of the world and the often frigidly cold weather.  In Winter’s Tales, Dinesen (a.k.a. Karen Blixen) combines realistic fiction with elements of fairy tales and myth, creating stories which shed light on human strengths and foibles.  Love, in its various forms, is a common theme.

Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg
When I read this novel I was completely captivated by protagonist Smilla Jaspersen, a Greenlander with Inuit roots who lives in Copenhagen, Denmark.  Smilla, somewhat of a loner, is a scientist who is an expert on snow and ice. When the death of her six-year-old neighbor, another Greenlander with whom she was close, is determined to be due to an accidental fall from a rooftop, Smilla does not agree.  As the authorities will not help her, she begins to investigate on her own.  This is a truly suspenseful mystery with an independent main character that you will not forget.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
We read this enthralling story, the author’s debut novel, for our library’s book club.  In the 1920s, Jack and Mabel, a married and childless couple in their forties, move from Pennsylvania to Alaska to start a new life as homesteaders.  The Alaskan natural environment proves much more challenging than either had anticipated.  Their frustration is lifted, however, when a snow maiden that they build one winter day appears to turn into a real child.  Ivey very skillfully depicts the miscommunication that can occur between spouses and the potential for true mutual understanding and connectedness.
Almost, Maine by John Cariani (in New Playwrights: The Best Plays of 2006)
I saw this thought-provoking and charming play a few years ago at a smaller San Juan Capistrano theater, and am very excited to have just discovered that OC Public Libraries has the script in the collection mentioned above.  The play takes place on a cold winter night in the fictitious small town of Almost, Maine. In multiple storylines, characters fall in and out of love and events take unexpected turns.  The play contains a lot of humor as well as a bit of sadness, and is definitely worth reading, and watching if you ever get the chance.

After reading this hugely engaging and often hilarious novel for our library’s book club, I immediately added Semple to my personal top ten author list.  Bernadette is a brilliant former architect who loves her fifteen-year-old daughter Bee immensely, but has isolated herself in general and is unhappy being a Seattle housewife.  When Bernadette disappears close to Christmas Day, Bee decides that she and her father must search for her where the family was scheduled to travel, frozen Antarctica.  Narrated by Bee, the novel also contains emails, letters, FBI case notes and other documents.   For a more detailed review, please see my colleague’s blog post.

Hope you enjoy these suggestions!  What wintry adult fiction would you recommend?

No comments: