Michael Cunningham’s The Snow Queen is Magnificent.

Posted on May 31, 2014
Filed Under Book Review, Strong Recommendation | Comments Off on Michael Cunningham’s The Snow Queen is Magnificent.

Snow QueenNear the beginning of Michael Cunningham’s magnificent new novel, one of the main characters has a potentially life-changing experience:  a seemingly celestial being appears to him in the sky above Central Park.  What ever this white light cloud formation is, it somehow seems to sense this person and even communicate with him.  And then it instantaneously disappears–seemingly indifferent to its affect on this mere mortal.  The omniscient narrator of this novel might just be this celestial being itself: temporarily interested in these characters’ lives, observant of every last detail and yet cold, distant. Like the ephemeral world of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Ice Palace,” the world rendered here seems etched in ice.  But unlike Mr. Fitzgerald, Mr. Cunningham doesn’t bid us to run away from this world, but rather to inhabit it for a while, because quite simply it is so beautiful.

This is Mr. Cunningham’s most New York novel to date–not only in its literal location, but also in the attitudes of the characters.  Wherever they came from originally, the city has over time, transformed them.   It has made them colder–less willing to become intimate with anyone for fear of the inevitable disappointment which mortals bring.  For as the narrator wisely states:

People are more than you think they are.  And they’re less, as well.  The trick lies in negotiating your way between the two.

The Snow Queen is the story of how a few human beings struggle to negotiate this way.

Michael Cunningham’s The Snow Queen is published by Farrar Straus Giroux.


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