Cover Image: Cold Enough for Snow

Cold Enough for Snow

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Member Reviews

"As we walked, she asked me about my work. I didn’t answer at first, and then I said that in many of the old paintings, one could discover what was called a pentimento, an earlier layer of something that the artist had chosen to paint over. Sometimes, these were as small as an object, or a colour that had been changed, but other times, they could be as significant as a whole figure, an animal, or a piece of furniture. I said that in this way too, writing was just like painting. It was only in this way that one could go back and change the past, to make things not as they were, but as we wished they had been, or rather as we saw it. I said, for this reason, it was better for her not to trust anything she read."

Cold Enough for Snow may be short, but for the few pages that it has, it packs a mighty punch. The story centres around the protagonist and her mother who have met to take a trip together in Tokyo. It's not easy to say what this story is about as such, because yes they take a trip through museums, galleries, restaurants, parks and cafés, but behind the simplicity of the story, there's a depth to this story that speaks of relationships, time, art, pain and beauty. 

The story moves between physical locations, the protagonist and her mother communicating in a way that feels as though they don't know each other as well as they would like to, but the important thing is that they are trying. It's difficult to tell if either of the main characters enjoy being there and being together, or whether they're there because they feel as though they should be.

The story is interspersed with memories, with dreams, with half forgotten truths. I think that this is where the magic lies in this beautiful story. The protagonist voices so many of her thoughts that seem strange or even sometimes unsettling, and yet, I found myself realising that often I felt the same. Maybe we can all relate to this humble humanity in feeling strange and out of place, as if we're constantly walking into a room just after everybody else has left.

There is a story told within this book of the protagonist's uncle. It's about birds, beauty and forbidden love and I know that it will sit within me for a long time to come.

I can't say that this is a joyful book, nor can I say that it's a particularly sad one. It's wistful, lonely and nostalgic - it's about memory and how this can and does shape who and what we are as we move through our lives.

A beautifully profound little book. Recommended especially to those who enjoy Japanese literature.
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This was definitely a read outside my comfort zone. Written in a stream-of-consciousness style, we follow our protagonist through her memories, her predictions for the future, and her musings on family, philosophy, the meaning of life, and her relationship with her mother while they are on holiday together in Tokyo. Her thoughts sometimes come with musings on the nature of existence, and sometimes peter out and drift away. It’s very slice-of-life, and is full of highly cinematic moments.

I enjoyed this book, overall, but it was a little too drifting and directionless to be something I would read again.
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Cold Enough for Snow is a lyrical meditation on adulthood and relationships, both to loved ones and oneself. The story follows a daughter and her mother on a short trip to autumnal Japan, concentrating mostly on the relationship between the two women and brief impressions of the place. While Au touches on many topics such as art, growing up, and the pressure to perform, for me, this was ultimately a story about the impossibility to understand our parents as beings who once had a life not involving their children.
Told from the daughter's point of view, the first-person narrative with a complete lack of direct dialogue seems to capture the imperfection of communication and struggle for understanding. While the daughter tries her best to get to know her mother better, she inadvertently fails to see her as a complete human being in itself, always relating her to herself. 
While the writing was lyrical and well-crafted, I felt like it lacked a substance. While enjoyable when reading, I am left with little memorable moments just a couple of days after reading. If writing was like a painting, and novels were like pictures, this book would surely be an impressionist painting. Lovely to look at, skillfully made, and evocative, but essentially blurry and not particularly interesting.
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‘I had one vague, exhausted thought that perhaps it was all right not to understand all things, but simply to see and hold them.’

4.5✨— written in quietly beautiful prose, ‘cold enough for snow’ is an expansively drawn novella mediating on the delicate bonds between an unnamed mother and daughter, as they embark on a vacation together across japan. 

for such a short length of work, i was surprised to find just how immersive jessica au’s writing is. told from the perspective of the daughter, much of the novella takes on an enigmatic quality, as sparse indirect dialogue with her mother gives way to the interior thoughts of our narrator. mostly, she picks apart fragments of memories and stories she holds about her family members, peeling back layer after layer of childhood memories to discover new meanings, and frequently reflects on the cultural and emotional distance felt between her mother (who immigrated from hong kong) and herself/her sister (who were raised in an unnamed, presumably western country). 

books that explore the character of places are my most favourite to read, and ‘cold enough for snow’ being written like a travelogue of japanese cities made it all the more an enjoyable book for me. through the observant tone of our narrator, each page offers mesmerising details of the museums, art galleries, tea houses, temples, hidden alleyways, mountain trails and café’s visited by our character’s in japan during the autumn season. ultimately, i consider the book to be a beautiful reflection and appreciation of mother-daughter bonds, travel, art, history, and family heritage. 

many thanks to fitzcarraldo editions for my netgalley e-arc, this was such a pleasure to read <3
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Reading Cold Enough for Snow was like reading a book I've always wanted to read, but didn't know it was possible to write. Everything about it is exquisite, from the writing, to the ideas, to the atmosphere that creeps into you from the very first lines, that I found myself wondering how anyone could ever be capable of such magic in so little space? 

To speak of plot with Cold Enough for Snow would be to miss the point: this seems to me a book about the preciousness of life first and foremost, about the magic that can sometimes imbue the simplest acts and reminds you that this life is worth living. It is also about the precariousness of such beauty, its fleeting nature, but its vibrant existence nonetheless. The sun rays hitting the cold blue waters of a pool, the clouds on a sunny day as you are walking home, the otherwordliness of a crater-lake, the softness of tying your mother's shoes. 

In it, it reminded me both of Virginia Woolf and Marilynne Robinson, two masters of the power of the unassuming. In fact, there is this moment in Cold Enough for Snow when the narrator goes on a hike and remembers a visit to a dark lake that is eerily reminiscent of Housekeeping in the best way. Likewise, the conversation between the narrator and her mother had an Anne Carson quality to it, especially in "The Glass Essay," where you can feel the unspoken at the edge of what little is spoken. 

Cold Enough for Snow is about this and so much more. There are moments of insight into writing and memory that make you question your own reading of this compact story, as you wonder if perhaps you have been somehow fooled, if this is perhaps a story about ghosts after all. It is unsettling and beautiful in a way that invites re-reading it the moment you've turned the last page.
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*2.5

Although "Cold Enough for Snow" is less than 105 pages, I struggled to complete this novella. I was looking forward to this publication and had high hopes based on the premise. Unfortunately, I felt underwhelmed by the time I’d finished reading it.

I thought that this book was going to focus on a mother/daughter relationship and their reunification through dialogue as the description of the book notes:

“A mother and daughter travel from abroad to meet in Tokyo: they walk along the canals through the autumn evenings, escape the typhoon rains, share meals in small cafes and restaurants, and visit galleries to see some of the city’s most radical modern art. All the while, they talk: about the weather, horoscopes, clothes, and objects, about family, distance, and memory.”

Yet, during most of the story, they barely talk at all. In fact, for almost two thirds of the story, the reader doesn’t get any deep or meaningful conversation between the two characters. For over half of the book—unless we’re privy to a flashback—Au lists the things that the two characters do or describes the setting. Normally, I enjoy descriptive writing. However, while reading descriptive content in Cold Enough for Snow, I was confused because it was riddled with grammatical errors, punctuation errors and issues with diction which left me rereading sentences over and over again until I became so frustrated that I moved past them after I couldn’t understand what had been written.

I finished reading this book a few days ago and thought I’d allow myself some time to reflect about the experience and the content. I especially hoped that the extra time would help me understand the content more. I’m sorry to report that it hasn’t. In fact, as I’ve reflected on the description of the book, I’m more confused about what is being reckoned (as is mentioned in the description) and how this novella is an elegy (as it is described).

Now, what I’m left with is more than a few unanswered questions that make me feel as if I either didn’t understand the story (very possible) or got lost along the way (also very possible). For example, what was (were) the purpose(s) of the flashbacks and how did they correlate to the current timeline? Did Au incorporate the flashbacks at specific points in the present timeline for a reason? If so why? Why is two-thirds of the narrative focused on the plot of the mother and daughter’s trip to Japan and then in the last third heavily focused on flashbacks of the protagonist, her education, job, swimming, and partner? I don’t know what it is that I’m missing because I have reread parts of the story and thought through the narrative and still come up drawing a blank, similar to how the protagonist feels when she’s explaining her inability to ask the right questions about Laure’s father’s sculpture of the face, or as the protagonist says, “I had one vague, exhausted thought that perhaps it was all right not to understand all things, but simply to see and hold them” LOC 988-996. However, I don’t want to hold onto the things that I read as I don’t feel there was satisfactory character development and/or relationship development (or disintegration) between the mother and daughter.
Although I didn’t enjoy this title as much as I’d hoped, I’m in the minority and hope that you’ll pick up this title and decide for yourself.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Fitzcarraldo Editions for allowing me to read an ARC of "Cold Enough for Snow" in exchange for an honest review!
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A beautiful little book. I felt like I entered some sort of dreamlike state whilst reading it. The author definitely knows how to arrest the reader’s attention without resorting to cheap tricks, she does it purely with the power of her words. I left the book with a lot of think about; family, nature, travel and the human spirit. A wonderful piece of writing that I cannot wait to recommend to others.
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3.5 stars, rounded down. A slight novella about the gaping silences and unspoken voids in the relationship between an adult daughter and her elderly mother, separated by cultural and linguistic divides that they don't have the necessary emotional openness to cross, epitomized by the lack of direct dialogue between them. The journal-form narrative follows the narrator (a writer ostensibly raised in Australia) and her mother (an immigrant from Hong Kong) on a weeklong trip from Tokyo to Kyoto, interspersed with flashbacks to the pasts of various members of their family. Au's prose is evocative, creating a smooth and burnished surface, but there doesn't seem to be much psychological depth there, beyond the growing realization that the narrator might be entirely unreliable. What rankled me the most was Au's lingering upon some of the most obvious aspects of Japanese culture-- wabi-sabi porcelain, high-concept fashion, minimalist food, autumn leaves-- which frequently veered into Orientalist clichés for a Western audience.
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The effects of this novella are still sinking in.

Though the narrator entirely transports you to Japan, her student days, her life with her partner, you feel as if she is talking directly to you. There is a poignant kind of calm to her narrative style, and so much is said in the words that aren’t spoken. Though on the surface the story is about a bonding trip between mother and daughter, there is an undercurrent of thoughts that keep bubbling to the surface as the daughter reflects on her mother’s experience as a Chinese immigrant in Australia, and how her experiences and choices ultimately affected her children.

The novella reads like an autobiography rather than a piece of fiction, in its clarity and gentle voice.

I have a lot of respect for Fitzcarraldo as a publisher, and I was thrilled when I saw this volume on here! Thank you so much to Fitzcarraldo and NetGalley for this absolute privilege.
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I've never read a Fitzcarraldo Editions book that I didn't love, and this is no exception. 

It hits a lot of sweet spots for me: beautiful writing, a very simple narrative, a sort of melancholia drifting over everything. 

There's an uncertainty about what is really happening, which is eerily at odds with the meticulous transcription of minor details. I have a soft spot for being told about things like red woollen socks, and smalls bowls of rice, and thick notepaper. The pliability of memory is somehow set against this faithful rendering of actual things, and the novel is both immediate and remote. 

I think it is about art and grief and language and memory and, most of all, intimacy. It's quite painful to read, for such a quiet book, and it is the perfect length for that. 

My thanks to Fitzcarraldo Editions and NetGalley for the ARC.
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I thought Cold Enough for Snow rather wonderful. I liked its elegiac mood, its introspectiveness, and its restraint. The narrator of the novella is in Japan with her mother, visiting temples, galleries, eateries and walking the streets of Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. Beautifully observed, it all seems quite simple but as the narrator reminisces about her and her family’s past, deeper themes and ambiguities begin to surface. This is a story about immigration and deep feelings of dislocation it causes, search for belonging through culture, food and art. It’s an immersive, almost hypnotic read that left me (also an immigrant) in a reflective mood. I imagine subsequent readings being equally if not even more rewarding. Highly recommended. 

My thanks to Fitzcarraldo Press and Netgalley for the opportunity to read Cold Enough for Snow.
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Mother and daughter embark on a short holiday in Japan. Beautifully written, it is easy to see why this is an award winning novella. 
I got the feeling like I was reading the journal of the unnamed daughter but not in a invasive way. Her thought patterns felt jolty but really familiar, I felt I knew her every memory, or was her,  but also knew nothing about her. The book doesn't really have any dialogue, however it didn't feel like it was missing. 

This writing style is new to me, I am not sure if I absolutely love it, or the opposite, but I didnt want to stop reading it. It really captured a gentle moment of the connection and disconnection between mother and daughter.
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A woman and her mother, Chinese by heritage and Australian by nationality, travel to Japan to visit museums, enjoy the beauty of autumn, possibly re-connect.  Beautiful, enigmatic, inconclusive the book is told  from the unnamed daughter's POV.  The visit engenders memories of their life, their history, what she has been told of her family in Hong Kong and whether it is true or not.  Deceptively slender, this book may carry elements of metafiction, and is already an award winner.  Special.
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The quality of Au's prose speaks for itself and this intriguingly chilly novel can be read in many different ways. An extremely interesting read with much to recommend it alongside mirror and smoke. Very much look forward to seeing what Au writes next.
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In all of my travels, the country that I found most enigmatic was Japan. It was also among the most charming, beautiful, and wondrous. Jessica Au captures all this and more in her meticulous and captivating debut novel, "Cold Enough for Snow".

Au's writing is beautiful and sublime. It is especially compelling in flashbacks and musings that add layers to what on first blush reads like a simple mother/daughter "road trip", maybe for the last time. Instead we are offered subtle glimpses of a far more complex story of expatriation/immigration with the complexities of 1st generation assimilation and alienation that can be so wrenching. Japan with its past and present history and beauty is the perfect setting for these contemplations. 

"Cold Enough for Snow" is a worthy recipient of the inaugural Novel Prize given by Fitzcarraldo Editions/New Directions/Giramondo  for "a novel written in English that explores and expands the possibilities of the form".  Jessica Au is an artist to watch as her career unfolds.

Thank you to Fitzcarraldo Editions/New Directions/Giramondo and NetGalley for the eARC.
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This book feels like a person you gaze at from the window of a bus. In one moment, your attention is fully on them, only for that moment to pass as quickly as it came.

Subtle, but so tangible. If you enjoy prose-like sentences and Rachel Cusk you’ll enjoy this. Also recommend reading when it’s cold haha.

Thanks to net galley and new directions for the arc.
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Books published by Fitzcarraldo Editions are always worth reading.  Cold Enough for Snow is a difficult book to capture. A short novel with depth, it centres on a trip to Japan made by a mother and daughter, the narrator, but that is much less important than the series of reflections - on their relationship, their wider family and identities - that it prompts. It is beautifully and calmly written - the clarity of its prose somehow gets under your skin and it's been with me since I finished it a couple of days ago. As the narrator writes, "It was strange at once to be so familiar and so separated. i wondered how I could feel so at home in a place that was not mine."  That's also what the book was for me and I am grateful to have read it.
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A short, melancholic and poetic novel about a woman going on a trip with her mother to Tokyo. She reflects on her mother’s upbringing and how that informed her childhood, as well as the difference between the generations in her family. I really enjoyed dipping in and out of this book. It was comforting and immersive and I recommend it if you want something totally unique to read.
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I was really drawn to this book and I was impressed with the simplicity within it. It's a story about a mother and daughter trip to Japan. It made me think about the relationship between myself and my mum. This is a beautiful novella which I will recommend recommend to my own mother. 
Thank you Netgally and Jessica Au for the ARC.
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Cool, subtly dissociative and melancholy : living behind opaque glass

3.5 raised to 4

Beautifully written, this is (fortunately) more of a long short story or novella than a novel, as it is really told in a single voice, through a single viewpoint, and in many ways ‘nothing happens’

It’s a little like the kind of endless journey feel of walking down a long quiet, empty road, when slightly stoned, or very tired, a dreamlike, déjà vu, not quite present, feel.

A grown up daughter (unnamed, a one time University student of English literature, and now a writer – Au herself or Au as springboard for her invented alter ego?) takes her mother, born in Hong Kong, to Japan for a short intensive holiday. Her mother’s first language is Cantonese, she does not speak Japanese. The daughter, and narrator, has English as a her first language, and has been to Japan before, and is fascinated by the culture, having researched and planned exactly what will happen on the trip. She is also fascinated by visual art and crafts

The daughter is absolutely fully engaged ‘mindfully observing’ each present external moment, so the novella is full of scrupulously detailed descriptions of food, skies, museum exhibits, art works – and there are memories evoked of previous times, both from her childhood, and from other times in her life, as an impressionable student, but, still, the sense all through is of a life lived outside itself. In a sense, this is the observation of the artist.

What becomes increasingly and disturbingly missing though, is relationship itself, somehow. The mother – often tired, seemingly without much input into itinerary is taken hither and thither by the daughter. There is clearly love, but also some kind of never connect. 

There is even a strange recounting, in a hotel the two are staying in, which almost suggests that the mother might not exist, briefly, as a hotel employee suggests the daughter is staying on her own.

Is she an unreliable narrator, and if so do all recollections about the past, including her relationship with her husband, and their conversations about whether and when to have children, have external ‘truth’.

The strongest sense of the daughter which I had, was the sequence she remembers, as a student, where she is almost trying to invent herself, trying to discover and create what persona she should have.

To an extent, this still seems to be that way, as she delivers lectures to her mother on the art works she takes her to see – as if she is still trying to find a way to form herself

Her relationship with her own self and her own feelings seem as difficult to grasp as her relationship with the mother.

The clearer and more detailed description of external objects, landscapes and artefacts became, the more self-effaced and self-effacing the daughter herself became.

Often, with books I have particularly enjoyed, I feel that the author has turned their imaginary characters into people so real that I can believe they do exist, and, more that I could recognise them ‘if I ever met them’ (and the feeling is, they are so real that I might, indeed, do so)

Here, it is the reverse. I would recognise the landscape, the meal, the museum, its artefacts but the narrator is a person shadowed, indistinct, and formless.

This was, for that reason, an unsettling read, leaving me with the sense that a lost soul was drifting around me…………………….

For this sense of strangeness, it captures, perhaps, something about growing up or living in cultures which are not your own, so however close you might get, something feeling not quite home, prevents complete submersion and identification
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