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Cold Enough for Snow (Jessica Au, Giramondo)

Cold Enough for Snow is Jessica Au’s second novel and the winner of Giramondo Publishing, Fitzcarraldo Editions and New Directions’ inaugural Novel Prize. The book’s narrator travels with her Hong Kong-born mother to Japan, a destination she has chosen both for its foreignness and cultural semi-familiarity, and which she hopes will put them ‘on equal footing in some way, to both be made strangers’. The exact purpose of the trip remains elusive, but it is clear from the beginning of the novel that some fundamental part of their relationship is at stake. As the two visit galleries and museums, shops and gardens, a cemetery and a bathhouse, they communicate by way of opinion, memory and gesture, rather than by directly addressing any emotional concerns. The reader is left to interpret a wake of silence, in which lie entire histories of misunderstanding, uncertainties and unspoken truths. Au’s prose is elegant and measured. In descriptions of bracing clarity she evokes ‘shaking delicate impressions’ of worlds within worlds that are symbolic of the parts of ourselves we keep hidden and those we choose to lay bare. Put simply, this novel is an intricate and multi-layered work of art—a complex and profound meditation on identity, familial bonds and our inability to fully understand ourselves, those we love and the world around us.

Jacqui Davies is a freelance writer and reviewer based in South Australia.


Category: Reviews