Cover Image: Cold Enough for Snow

Cold Enough for Snow

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Member Reviews

An atmospheric novella that examines the relationship between a mother and daughter as they travel through Japan, The narrator is reminded of people, memories, family stories throughout the trip, a lot of the time bringing her out of the things her and her mother are experiencing on the trip. Themes that came through were motherhood and care giving, how the roles reverse as we grow older, or in situations where one has to assume the role of caretaker. I think it described really beautifully the narrators frustration with knowledge and education, and her own limits. We see this presented in her mothers contentment with not needing to examine or think about everything so deeply as her daughter does. I enjoyed the deeply reflective and ethereal nature of this book. An enjoyment to read from start to finish.
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I was impressed by the depth and storylines in this novel. An unforgettable and is a wonderfully written book that will remain with me for a long time. I loved the descriptions of Tokyo, making me long to visit Japan, as well as the relationship between mother and daughter.
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Cold Enough for Snow is a beautifully written novella, full of quiet, elegant prose. Plot and even character development are not the focus here - instead, we enter the highly reflective and yet emotionally distant world of the protagonist, I found the description of the journey taken through Japan to be vivid and mesmerising (it made me itch to be able to travel again). This was a wonderful read, and one I can see myself revisiting to pick up on more little details.
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This was a very interesting perspective (and setting) for looking at a mother-daughter relationship where both culture and language seem to be a barrier., The first half of this was 5 star but the second half fell flat; what was initially lyrical and meandering became erratic and unstructured with little resolution. However, I am looking forward to reading more work by Au.
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This was such a unique reading experience for me. Cold Enough for Snow is a quiet novel that is seemingly simple but is actually quite deep. We follow an unnamed narrator as she recounts a trip with her mother to Japan. As the novel progresses, we begin to wonder if the mother is real or if she is imagined. The timeline is nonlinear with memories from the narrator's life. Au's prose is rhythmic and controlled, and the novel is well paced with an elegiac feel. This reflective, thought provoking book will stick with me for a while, and it is one that I will reread in the future. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Fitzcarraldo for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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I went into this not knowing much about the book, author or the fact it has already won awards. It's enjoyable to read with a deceptively simple style, and it's short enough to be read in a few days. The descriptions of places (especially the galleries, resturants and trains) are almost painterly - carefully put together while still being detached.

The detachment suits the text, emphasising the gulf between the Daughter and her Mother, and the family dynamics. The memories feel more intimate (as memories do), weaving into the ongoing narrative and making it feel special and close. The Mother remains an almost spectral figure in each scene, the daughter trying to connect to her despite that.

A really, really wonderful book!
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Au's novella reads a bit like a memoir/journal because it's mostly reflective, no dialogue between any characters, even though the novel takes place when a daughter takes her elderly mother on a trip to Japan. We see the mother here and there, waiting for her daughter, observing art, but we never really get to know the mother, because the prose travels from present to past, to her childhood, her partner, her reflections on experiences with these people. 

The prose is beautiful, and it's a novella where not much happens, other than readers being on the journey in what feels like a journal while the two women travel in Japan.
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In many ways a fascinating novella, and I'm glad to have been given the opportunity to read it.

It's reminiscent of both Proust and Ishiguro, the latter being a good thing and the former being at best a mixed blessing. I struggle with Proust. After almost a year on and off I'm not even half way through Swann's Way.

What this novella shares with Proust's masterpiece is being a story where almost nothing happens, and in which much emphasis is placed on the description of minutiae.

A mother and daughter go on holiday together to Japan. It's all told in a flowing, interweaving style from the POV of the daughter, with no dialogue, and jumping with the protagonists thoughts. Thus we hear about her relationship with her partner, house-sitting for a university lecturer, her uncle courting and falling in love, amongst other things. I suppose all of these digressions are somehow connected to the main narrative, but I often failed to see exactly how. Not that that really mattered - I did quite enjoy several of these stories.

However, the description along with nothing really happening makes me loose focus and drift off, which is what keeps happening with Proust. While I enjoy getting detailed descriptions of the way the light falls into a room - so that I can truly imagine being there, seeing it myself, I got annoyed by passages like that about handing a museum ticket person money and getting tickets in exchange - obvious, mundane, and not adding to story nor atmosphere in my opinion.

Au also has some beautiful passages and shrewd observations that I enjoyed and that made me smile. And there's a certain melancholy, an absence, a longing to the story which resonated with me, though it was overall a bit of a mixed bag.
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Enmeshing the everyday and the extraordinary, the banalities and profound emotional experiences that coexist to create a life, this slight and unassuming novel is a moving exploration of memory, language and parent–child relationships that deserves to be read as much for its use of words as for the weighty themes it encompasses.

On a trip to Japan, a mother and daughter attempt – without ever discussing it – to come closer to one another, to spool in some of the threads that keep them bound to each other yet a considerable distance apart. The daughter, our narrator, has painstakingly planned the holiday to a country she has visited before, though under different circumstances: she thus experiences a steadily waning sense of familiarity with Japan that mirrors how she feels about her mother, a figure who remains fixed in her mind as she was in her childhood but, occasionally, when seen as she really is, seems far more like a stranger. This sense of half-recognition echoes again in an anecdote concerning the narrator’s sister, about visits she made to Hong Kong first as a child and then as a young woman – one of the many textual layerings Au has built into her novel. This slow building up of a theme comes eventually to ask questions about identity: who do we become as we grow older, how are place and memory so irrevocably intertwined, and how can we share the deepest of bonds yet never truly know another’s mind?

[. . .]

With surprising depths for its slender build, Cold Enough for Snow has an ineffable, haunting quality that makes it a profound experience to read. At times, it could be longer – it seems to exist too quietly in the world – yet the half-finished nature of so many of its scenes is part of its magic, integral to the message it seems to be imparting. A joy to read with its luminous, graceful prose, it is a novel about peripheral experiences that somehow goes straight to the heart.

[excerpted from the full review published on my blog]
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Firstly, I love anything with a Tokyo backdrop. That city has my heart and stories that are centered around it are always so engrossing and full of motion and character. 
This is a really introspective dive into humanity as a concept. It is gorgeous, raw and consuming.
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A delicate work of autofiction – it reads most like a Chloe Aridjis or Rachel Cusk novel – about a woman and her Hong Kong-raised mother on a trip to Tokyo. You get a bit of a flavour of Japan through their tourism (a museum, a temple, handicrafts, trains, meals), but the real focus is internal as Au subtly probes the workings of memory and generational bonds.

The woman and her mother engage in surprisingly deep conversations about the soul and the meaning of life, but these are conveyed indirectly rather than through dialogue: “she said that she believed that we were all essentially nothing, just series of sensations and desires, none of it lasting. … The best we could do in this life was to pass through it, like smoke through the branches”. Though I highlighted a fair few passages, I find that no details have stuck with me. This is just the sort of spare book I can admire but not warm to.
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I found this to be an evocative and impressionistic little novella. A daughter takes her mother on a trip to Japan. She has high expectations and has made all sorts of plans but finds that her mother does not care all that much about the activities, the art, the food. Things the daughter has been taught to love and care about during her studies. Her mother however is content just to follow her normal routine. I recognised how as children we want our parents to enjoy what we enjoy, give them what we think of as special, only to find that they have their own tastes and desires.

The setting reminded me of Elise Dusapin's The Pachinko Parlour, which also features a daughter of emigrants going on a trip to Japan with family, although that had a bit more tension and plot whereas here a lot is left to the imagination. The absence of a plot is not a problem at all by the way: the calm story and the nicely integrated flashbacks are interesting enough and I was easily drawn in.
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Atmospheric, contemplative novella that recalls the surreal state of mind that I get when traveling in unfamiliar places. Indeed this book reads like the Impressionist paintings and artwork that the narrator reflects on. There’s not a lot of direct plot - a woman goes on a trip to Japan with her mother - but it’s the evocation of her surroundings and her circuitous thoughts as she travels that makes this quiet book feel much deeper. The mix of hyper present observation with internal reminiscence seems like the kind of thing that can only be achieved when unmoored in another place where one feels their own foreignness. This book reminded me of traveling again and the shifting gradients within being adrift, wandering, and discovery.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Fitzcarraldo Editions for the ARC.
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There was a lot packed into this short book. 

First, the beautiful descriptions of place and things have to be acknowledged. I haven't been to Japan, but if it looks as described, I want to go. The little things are vivid, yet sparsely described. This is a rare talent, and I appreciate the author's ability. 

Then there is the mother-daughter relationship. It is clear that they love each other, but the question is: at what point in time is this set? It could be that this may be a trip the daughter took on her own, in remembrance of her mother, as she is cleaning her (possibly deceased) mother's home at one point. Is this love real, or is it a desired relationship on the part of the daughter? 

The immigrant experience is also described in spare, but haunting prose-here the mother and daughter world views are very different, yet also similar in many ways, and hints to their relationships: to themselves, each other, their family and their surroundings. 

This little book is very haunting, thought-provoking, and very much re-readable. I look forward to more from Jessica Au. 

Thank you to the publisher, Fitzcarraldo, and to NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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This book is a quiet and haunting debut where traces of memory and the many invisible threads between people and moments are brought to the surface.

We look at the world through various snapshots of a mother and daughter, with moments and stories sitting alongside crystal-clear flashes of senses and feelings, and the result is something really quite beautiful.

For a book as short as this, it manages to build an incredibly layered and rich story, whilst still feeling like the narrator is gently walking through life and telling the story at her pace, always reaching for something just beyond her.

This book is a great reminder of what Fitzcarraldo does excellently- finding those odd stories that feel like they sit between fiction and non-fiction, and giving them the space to breathe.

I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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what an extraordinary novella, not only gorgeous prose on every level but also giving me the sense of feeling lighter than I felt before. And wiser. The narrator is intensely observant of both her environment and her inner worlds. She describes her family in ways that aren't always complementary but that are always full of love. Au perfectly channels the sensibility of a young person trying to understand the world in a deeper way. The novella reminds me of other recent favorites including Three O'Clock in the Morning by Gianrico Carofiglio and Optic Nerve by María Gainza--if you loved those, then you will love this--but it has a, well, the best word for it really is 'love'--it has a love of life and language and for me catapulted it beyond even these great favorites.
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Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au is a short novel about a mother-daughter relationship, art, travel, the immigrant experience.
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I read Cold Enough for Snow in a sitting; I loved how poetic it is, and Tokyo as the setting is always gorgeous. A mother and daughter visit Tokyo during a rainy season. They walk around the city, take the trains, visit museums and galleries, eat tasty meals in restaurants. And at the same time, they talk about the past, their memories, family, the things they see at the shops, art, literature and many more things. But you can sense that even though they are talking, there are many questions that aren’t asked.
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Although this book was extremely short, I found the writing to be too meandering and I didn't want to pick the book up.
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Cold Enough for Snow: a wonderful title, and a story which definitely warmed my heart and engaged my intellect in equal measure. This is a first person narration told entirely in reported speech. The rhythm of the prose, its precision, the equal importance it gives to descriptions, reflexions, reported dialogue, and the seamless interweaving of past and present, made it for me a riveting reading experience. 
The nameless narrator, a daughter in her  30s, has arranged a trip abroad with her mother, who she sees now rarely as they live in different cities. It is not the first time the narrator has visited Japan, but it will be the first for her mother - a place of neutrality and discovery ideal, she thinks, for getting beyond what she perceives the mundanity/superficiality of their relationship... Who has not tried a trip like this? I have. This novel travelogue takes you through a carefully planned tour of Japan. Cities have been selected, museums, especial buildings, nature trails... I loved the almost namelessness of the places, the small hints (names unnecessary as what was  important was described and ruminated in a very succinct yet so resonant manner). A similar approach is taken to the memories of the past which keep creeping in the narrator's conciousness and which prompt an obvious thought: which memories are being entertained by the mother? which were her expectations for the trip?  The daughter's thoughts revolve about culture in its widest sense - art, language, work ethic, spirituality... and particularly difference in relation to it and its consumption and appreciation, its dislocating power, thrown into focus by the narrator's immigrant family. Of course, another central theme is the levels of knowability of the other. 
I particularly liked of this novella its non-pretentious yet almost elegiac tone, and how it pondered some deep conundrums in our dealings with family and culture in a rather mesmerising manner that brought to mind some French nouveau roman novels.  I am looking forward to more from Jessica Au and will be seeking her first novel, Cargo, right now.
With many thanks to Fitzcarraldo Editions via NetGalley for an opportunity to read and review this wonderful, intelligent and rewarding novel.
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