Review – Snow in Summer
  • Posted:
  • November 20, 2012
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Snow in Summer is a middle grade book by Jane Yolen. It is a retelling of Snow White set in the late 1930’s and spanning into the 50’s in West Virgina. It’s an unusual take on the traditional fairy tale, one I didn’t initially think I would like.

However, I made it to the end, and the ending drew it all together. Keep that in mind if you decide to pick it up.

Snow in Summer (called Summer) is born to two loving parents. Her mother dies when she is very young. Her father, broken hearted and bereft, begins a nightly vigil where he visits her grave alone, despite Summer’s protests. Nancy (Summer’s Godmother) tries to soothe Summer’s pain but the grief is too strong. One night Summer follows her father to the grave to discover that he has met another woman; a severely beautiful woman he brings down from the mountain to marry. Summer does not get along with her new Stepmama who abuses her at every chance. As the years go on Summer becomes even more convinced that her Stepmama is a witch who is charming her father into besotment (yes, I totally made that word up). But how is she supposed to stand up to a woman with so much power?

This is a grittier version of the Snow White story than many of the retellings I have read of it. There’s a deep, ominous feeling of dread throughout the entire book, one that makes the reader compelled to put it down. However, this is one of those books that is completely saved by the last 50 pages of the story. I read it unsure what I was getting into but I wanted to continue it for one reason – My grandparents on my father’s side grew up in West Virginia. I have spent time there in my youth. I wanted to see how Yolen handled the tone of the place and the people. Granted, I spent time there in the 80’s, but my grandparents would have been growing up there around the time this story was set, so I do have an inkling of what it was like. Yolen hits the tone and the people spot on. There’s a pervasive air of superstition (in my experience) in that community and the subtlety is handled beautifully in this treatment.

As for the “traditional” Snow White story, well… it is there, you just have to wait for it. Much of the plotting of this book takes place long before Summer runs into the forest, which amps up the feeling of doom. It’s not a pretty read but it captures the element of Grimm that many new takes are missing – apprehension. These are cautionary tales, after all.

This was my first venture into Yolen’s work, and I am not disappointed. I look forward to reading more of her in the future.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

– BP

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