Author: Louise Nealon
Publisher: Manilla Press
Publication Date: 10th May 2021
Eighteen-year-old Debbie White lives on a dairy farm with her mother, Maeve, and her uncle, Billy. Billy sleeps out in a caravan in the garden with a bottle of whiskey and the stars overhead for company. Maeve spends her days recording her dreams, which she believes to be prophecies.
This world is Debbie’s normal, but she is about to step into life as a student at Trinity College in Dublin. As she navigates between sophisticated new friends and the family bubble, things begin to unravel. Maeve’s eccentricity tilts into something darker, while Billy’s drinking gets worse. Debbie struggles to cope with the weirdest, most difficult parts of herself, her family and her small life. But the fierce love of the White family is never in doubt, and Debbie discovers that even the oddest of families are places of safety.
I’ve been reading great reviews of Snowflake for a while now so I was thrilled to finally get my hands on it. It actually managed to exceed my very high expectations and is definitely going to be up there with my books of the year. The story follows Debbie, an 18 year old about to attend university at Trinity College, Dublin. Debbie lives on a dairy farm with her eccentric mother Maeve and her Uncle Billy who lives in a caravan in the garden. She commutes into the city for university and finds herself struggling to navigate this new and frightening world whilst also coping with her complex family as they begin to fall into a dark place.
Snowflake is one of those books that you read and then hold in your heart forever. It is so beautifully and intelligently written with a mix of wit, pathos and a sharp tenderness. Somehow Nealon has managed to write a book including a great deal of trauma and sensitive topics without it ever feeling like a depressing read. There is just something about these characters, who felt devastatingly real to me, that gets under the readers skin. They are flawed, layered people who don’t always behave well and yet I still felt such empathy for them because they, and their relationships with each other, felt so human and organic.
Where Snowflake excels for me is in its depiction of mental illness. It is also incredibly strong in its examining of the perceptions around mental illness and the judgement surrounding it. The book, whilst genuinely funny at times is also achingly sad at others. A lot of books claim to be able to make readers laugh and cry but Snowflake really delivers on that promise which is certainly part of what makes it so special. It is so insightful and witty in a way that never feels condescending or self-important, just really, really smart and concise. I cannot recommend Snowflake highly enough, I think everyone will be able to find something to truly connect to in this emotional, sharp yet gently touching novel. A stunning debut.
I kindly received a gifted copy of the book from the publisher. My review is entirely my own honest opinion.