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Snow Country

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Member Reviews

This is a loose follow up to Human Traces and a trilogy is planned. As ever, the writing is beguiling. It is a story of the workings of the human mind and cognisance, focussing on relationships and bound by the confluence of major world events.

The novel starts in the early 20th Century and moves through the first couple of decades. Soon WW1 is looming. Anton Heideck meets Frenchwoman Delphine and their relationship develops into a deep love. However, the French are on the opposite side and Delphine disappears, ironically whilst he is in Paris, leaving him distraught. After a stint in the army during the war, he develops into a writer of some note, and he next pops up in Carinthia (Kärnten) when the war is but a distant memory. He is at Schloss Seeblick, a lakeside building that is a sanatorium, and it first featured in Human Traces.

We follow the story not only of Anton, but of Lena, who has not had an easy childhood and her experience of men has really not been positive. She is desperate to connect with her absent father, and ultimately ends up working in the sanatorium, where her mother also once worked. How life can come full circle! It is the circularity of human life that is one of the themes of the novel, the wars come and go, countries teeter, go to the brink and come back, whilst knowledge, like the wheels on a vehicle, continues to move on.

As political and societal changes ensue, the characters have to adapt and develop. There are historical touchstones which anchor the storytelling, but the people can often be far removed from the world maelstrom, simply just trying to live their lives. All the main characters, including Martha (who runs the sanatorium and happens to be the daughter of one of the founders) and Rudolf (an activist, whose ideology is in stark contrast to the ruling party), slide in and out of the narrative, pass through, perhaps leave their mark, but it is the psychological nature of humanity that has clearly gripped the author.

By the 1930s things have changed significantly in the study of mental health but Freud's hypothesising is still a major cornerstone. The culture at Schloss Seeblick now needs considerable adjustment. This is not a plot driven novel but it is telling of ideas and exchanges, with history and psychology adding a rich dimension.

The book hovers around in the first half, I would say, and then gets into its stride as it moves through the years; and of course, before long, political tumult is unfolding in a neighbouring country. The writing, as anctipated, is exquisite and the story at some levels can quite demanding of the reader.
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Yet another brilliant novel from Sebastian Faulks . Set in Austria early in the 20th century it follows the life of Lana , the daughter of a drunken mother . It has the usual romance and interesting storyline expected from this author.
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Delighted to have the opportunity to read the latest from Sebastian Faulks as a review copy. As alway, he gets inside the heart of the characters, and the story twists and winds in epic fashion through politics, wars, fashions, science and explorations. Highly impressive.
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Sorry but I'm struggling to get into this book - I've had three attempts but going to have to mark it as a DNF
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Although I didn't read the earlier sequel to this book, I found it could be read in its own right.  It covered a broad span of history stretching from before the first world war to the start of the second and managed to evoke a sense of the period, particularly in Vienna.  Although some of the historical aspects felt rather intrusive at times, slowing down the pace of the novel in places, I found the mood and events authentic and interesting on the whole.  I particularly liked Faulks' writing style, as in his previous novels, which seems unshowy and understated, but sucessfully holds the attention throughout.  An enjoyable read.
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Incredibly interesting and moving book. Sebastian Faulks is great at drawing you into the story and setting the scene beautifully and this didn't disappoint.
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A beautiful story. I love Sebastian Faulks’ writing and was very much looking forward to reading this new book.  It says it is second of a trilogy but you definitely don’t have to have read the first one. It’s set in the early part of the twentieth century in Austria and follows the lives of Anton, a journalist and Lena a poor girl. Their lives coincide when they are both working at a psychological clinic. The description of the times, setting and people is so absorbing. Just a wonderful book.
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*A big thank-you to Sebastian Faulks, Random House UK, and NetGalley for arc in exchange for my honest review.*
I love historical fiction with characters who feel isolated, suffer from losses or misunderstanding and seek to understand themselves. No wonder the latest novel by Mr Faulks was a gem to read. Lena, Anton and Rudolph are not characters I felt attached to but drawn to them, yes, I was. Complicated past exprience, gains and losses make them feel real. The historical background, beginning before the WW1 and spanning over twenty years, allows for their development. 
I enjoyed this novel so much that I already purchased Human Traces. Mr Faulks is a new author for me and I am happy to have discovered him.
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⭐️ 2.5 ⭐️
Rounded up to 3 stars.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC, in exchange for an honest unbiased review.

Snow Country is a well-written, well researched character-driven novel. Although this is a sequel, it can be easily read as a standalone.

Unfortunately I didn’t really connect with any of the characters and found some of them very similar and one dimensional, I had to keep recapping just to make sure who they were.

The pace is slow and often monotonous, with a lot of unnecessary dialogue.

Not one of my favourite reads by Sebastian Faulks.
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A well written, professionally researched book. It is as we expect from Sebastian Faulks. While Snow country does not have a plot as such, we follow the lives of Lena a simple uneducated girl, and Anton,  a journalist, against a backdrop of Vienna in the first 30 years of the twentieth century.  Essentially a love story, but also  about the development of  human consciousness. A worthy read.
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Having loved Birdsong I was excited to read Sebastian Faulks’ latest novel “Snow Country”.   It’s the second book in a trilogy which began with Human Traces which I haven’t read. However, this didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this book in any way and it can be read as a standalone book.  This novel covers a turbulent period in Austria’s history from 1914 to 1933 and focuses on a privileged young man Anton who yearns to be a successful journalist and embarks on an ill fated romance with a French woman Delphine.  Later in the story we are introduced to Lena an ill educated young woman, with a drunken mother living in impoverished circumstances in a small town.  An encounter with a lawyer Rudolf results in her moving to cosmopolitan Vienna - which proves to be ultimately disappointing for her.  Eventually Lena finds herself employed at the Schloss Seeblick where she encounters Anton again after a brief liaison in Vienna.  This encounter will have a profound effect on both their lives.
I loved this book and found it overwhelmingly sad in places,  Anton’s anguish over his romance with Delphine, his best friend’s death during WW1, Lena’s yearning for her absent father - all movingly depicted.  Throughout their journey Anton and Lena encounter love,  kindness and hope despite enduring a lonely existence and come to realise that life is worth living.  This book contains a large list of characters and I found myself wanting to know more about the sisters Martha and Charlotte Midwinter.  The description of daily life at the Schloss Seeblick were a fascinating insight into neurosis and the treatment offered at the time. 
Overall this is a fascinating and timeless novel which I’m happy to recommend. 
With thanks to NetGalley, the publishers and the author for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Snow Country is another engaging  novel from the very talented Sebastian Faulks. Set in the first part of the 1900’s, the book follows three people, their relationships and their lives before and after the First World War. 
Anton Heideck is working as a journalist in Vienna. He meets and falls in love with Delphine, a French woman living in the city, but the onset of the war separates them. 
Lena is a teenager living with an absent, alcoholic mother. She is encouraged to move to Vienna by Rudolf Plischke who is also passionate about The Rebirth Party. 
Moving forward, Anton and Lena meet at Schloss Seeblick hospital and both find help with their individual problems from Martha who is developing talking therapies at a time where more radical treatments are being used. 
This book isn’t easy reading at times, but Sebastian Faulks engaging writing style and well researched storyline pull you in and leave you pondering the characters long after finishing the last page.
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Snow Country' is a sequel to Faulks' novel 'Human Traces' but it can be read as a stand-alone as the books are loosely connected rather than featuring the same characters.  

After the prologue featuring a very graphic description of surgery, the book begins in 1914 when a young aspiring journalist, Anton Heideck arrives in Vienna to begin work.  To supplement his income he does some private tutoring and meets Delphine, the French woman who becomes his first love.

Meanwhile, we meet Lena, the illiterate daughter of a drunk mother living an impoverished life in a coastal town.  She meets a young idealistic lawyer, Rudolf, who encourages her to move to Vienna and seek a better life for herself.  Lena finds a job as a servant at the Schloss Seeblick, the sanatorium featured in Human Traces and now run by Martha Midwinter, the daughter of one of the founders.

The advent of World War 1 interrupts and upon Anton’s return he finds Delphine gone and his harrowing experiences have left him traumatised.  Fate intervenes and the lives of Anton, Lena and Rudolf connect in the sanatorium.
This is an impressive narrative, character driven, pulling on one’s emotions, it’s a poignant love story, lyrically written, full of well researched historical detail and definitely thought provoking.  

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  My only reservation is it’s rather slow and heavy going in places and I confess to skip reading some of the detailed psychotherapy sessions with Martha.

I would like to thank the publisher Random House U.K., Cornerstone and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Love, loss and war are familiar themes for Sebastian Faulks and in that vein Birdsong ranks amongst my most favourite books. I was very excited to read Snow Country even though I had missed the prequel Human Traces although I understand both are standalone reads. The writing is, of course, beautiful with the descriptions of the Austrian Schloss particularly entrancing. The main female character, Lena, is for me the most well rounded. Her struggle with her alcoholic mother and her bid to forge a relationship with her presumed father is, at times, heartbreaking to read. Ultimately though I struggled with the two male characters Anton and, especially, Rudolf who I found shadowy and weak. In contrast Martha and her twin Charlotte were interesting characters who I would have liked to read more about. The book has been described as a love story but I struggled to identify it as such. Perhaps the analysis of relationships detracted from the notion of love too much for me.
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EXCERPT: When Anton arrived the following day, he found that Delphine had set up a work table for him at the window overlooking the park.

Having never lived with a woman before, still less with one who fascinated him so much, he found it difficult to settle down to work. Panama seemed more than remote, it seemed unreal. Emerald and her devotions, Maxwell and his brandy bottle, the giant wheel that turned the lock gates lying flat in its braced iron bed . . . Perhaps he had in truth caught yellow fever and hallucinated all these things.

What was real was the smell of coffee from the kitchen next door, the sound of Delphine singing to herself as she tidied, her footsteps on the wooden floor. He went in, stood behind her and put his arms around her waist, then pressed himself against her.

ABOUT 'SNOW COUNTRY': 1914: Young Anton Heideck has arrived in Vienna, eager to make his name as a journalist. While working part-time as a private tutor, he encounters Delphine, a woman who mixes startling candour with deep reserve. Entranced by the light of first love, Anton feels himself blessed. Until his country declares war on hers.

1927: For Lena, life with a drunken mother in a small town has been impoverished and cold. She is convinced she can amount to nothing until a young lawyer, Rudolf Plischke, spirits her away to Vienna. But the capital proves unforgiving. Lena leaves her metropolitan dream behind to take a menial job at the snow-bound sanatorium, the Schloss Seeblick.

1933: Still struggling to come terms with the loss of so many friends on the Eastern Front, Anton, now an established writer, is commissioned by a magazine to visit the mysterious Schloss Seeblick. In this place of healing, on the banks of a silvery lake, where the depths of human suffering and the chances of redemption are explored, two people will see each other as if for the first time.

MY THOUGHTS: Snow Country is a book of dreams, yearning and hope balanced against the horrors of WWI and the approach of WWII, and the struggles, both political and personal, of the period in between. The scope of this novel is huge, almost too huge, and I sometimes felt swamped by it, rather than encompassed by it as I have with other works I have read by this author.

Lena is the common thread, the character who ties the other characters to the story. She is from a poor background, poor in both money and upbringing. She was also a poor student, leaving school with few academic skills, but natural abilities in other areas. All Lena really wants is to be loved, and a good part of this story is devoted to her journey towards finding that love. It is not a smooth, nor a predictable path.

My favourite characters were those of Delphine, a Frenchwoman with whom a young and inexperienced Anton falls in love; and Martha, a therapist at the psychiatric institute. My least favourite character was Rudolf, whose only great passion is politics, and who seems incapable of recognizing human emotions in others, or of responding to them.

This is a very slow moving read with a lot of dialogue. At times I found it hard to get to grips with the characters. Even after finishing it, I am still not sure if Lena's, Rudolf's and Anton's stories were merely a vehicle for the political history of Austria between the wars, or vice versa. Looking back on this reading experience it was like stumbling down a long, unfamiliar path in the dead of night, with no light, and no idea of where you are going.

I did love the section devoted to the building of the Panama Canal. It was such a huge feat, built at the cost of so many lives, and I had never before considered the logistics of the task. Faulks made this very real for me. 

There is some beautiful writing in Snow Country, but this is nowhere near the author's best work. My personal favourite is Birdsong.


#SnowCountry #NetGalley

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#comingofage #historicalfiction #mystery #romance #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Sebastian Faulks was born in 1953, and grew up in Newbury, the son of a judge and a repertory actress. He attended Wellington College and studied at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, although he didn’t enjoy attending either institution. Cambridge in the 70s was still quite male-dominated, and he says that you had to cycle about 5 miles to meet a girl. He was the first literary editor of “The Independent”, and then went on to become deputy editor of “The Sunday Independent”. Sebastian Faulks was awarded the CBE in 2002. He and his family live in London.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Cornerstone, via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Snow Country by Sebastian Faulks for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my profile page or the about page on

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and my webpage
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A novel of intrigue, mystery, and style set from the end of the 1st WW to the 1930’s. Filled with images of struggle examining the meaning of love and survival in Europe at the start of the rise of facism and the world wide destruction that would inevitably follow. My first Sebastian Faulks read was Birdsong and have been an admirer of his writing style ever since. Recommended.
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Beautifully written. The main characters are Anton and Lena Anton has a all consuming love affair with Delphine but the 1914 war gets in the way and Anton tries to find purpose.  . Lena is a damaged girl who’s looking for stability after a broken childhood. Both meet again in an asylum where Lena is working and Anton comes to write an article. Waves of sadness travel through the book. I was completely hooked by the characters and wanting to know their fate
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My thanks to Random House U.K. Cornerstone Hutchinson for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘Snow Country’ by Sebastian Faulks in exchange for an honest review.

Sebastian Faulks is best known for his literary historical fiction and this novel is the second in his Austrian trilogy, following on from his 2005 novel, ‘Human Traces’, in which two psychiatrists establish Schloss Seeblick, a sanitarium on a lakeside in Carinthia.

In 1914 nineteen-year-old Anton Heideck arrives in Vienna seeking to make his name as a journalist. He also works part time as a private tutor, and there he meets Delphine, an older French woman. He falls deeply in love. Then his country declares war on hers.

Moving forward to 1927, we are introduced to Lena, whose impoverished life is changed when a young lawyer, Rudolf Plischke, spirits her away to Vienna. Things don’t go well and she eventually ends up taking a menial job at the snow-bound Schloss Seeblick sanitarium.

By 1933 Anton is now an established writer and has been commissioned to write an article on the mysterious Schloss Seeblick. Yet he is still coming to terms with the death of so many friends on the Eastern Front and cannot forget Delphine. 

Woven into the story of these broken lives is the wider story of Europe as it recovers from one war and moves inevitably towards another. 

As always, Sebastian Faulks writing is exquisite and his descriptions of the landscapes were breathtaking. ‘Snow Country’ is undoubtedly a melancholic novel that explores aspects of philosophy and psychology. In addition, as readers we can appreciate the novel’s depiction of the rise of fascism during the interwar period. 

This was a novel that I admired for its beauty and ideas though I didn’t engage with its characters as much as I had hoped.

3.5 stars rounded up to 4.
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I was rather disappointed with this book. It's beautifully written overall of course, but it didn't go anywhere for me. The 2 main male characters were very similar but also under-developed and Lena just wasn't convincing. Why did she behave as she did ? The really intriguing characters for me were Delphine and Martha, but they only appeared for small sections at the beginning and end respectively.
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I have really enjoyed many of Sebastian Faulks previous novels - Birdsong is one of my all time favourites. But I'm afraid this one just didn't hit the mark for me. I found it very slow paced and apart from Lena, I didn't feel much for any of the characters. I am sure that others will enjoy this character driven book but it just wasn't for me.
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