Friday, October 9, 2015

Review: "The Black Snow" by Paul Lynch

While my feelings are mixed (although that’s a harsh word for my true feelings) for Paul Lynch’s second novel, The Black Snow, I feel it is an utterly unique novel that is very different from what else might be out there for you to read. It is a classic pastoral novel, owing a debt to writers like Cormac McCarthy, Daniel Woodrell and even shades of some Steinbeck, although that might be stretch. But what sets this book apart from those is its new setting, eschewing the plains of new America for the rich landscape of the Emerald Isle, Lynch’s native Ireland and using this famed terrain to tell a story about loss, risk and the consequences of not quitting while you’re ahead. This book is maybe a bit richer in detail than it is narrative, but for the most part, since it works on an emotional level more than anything, it works to the book’s advantage, creating a reading experience that is mysterious and never boring. The story begins in chaos, as Barnabas Kane, a settler who moved back home from America to become a successful farmer, watches as his barn is burned to the ground, his cattle destroyed, and his farmhand, Matthew Peoples, killed while trying to stop it. What follows is a quiet yet menacing tale of accusation, stubbornness and the feelings of helplessness one has when those you thought were your friends refuse to help you in your time of need. I feel Kane’s pain, when he is shot down by all of his friends when he asks for assistance in a memorable collection of scenes. Do they think he is guilty of causing the careless death of his farmhand, or do they simply not care as much as Kane thought? We also feel Kane’s wife Eskra’s growing sense of anxiety as the life she knew crumbles, and in alternating chapters, a nefarious voice unveils secrets about the events and family no one else knows. It’s vague at times, deliberately so, but this book feels special nonetheless. It’s a well-written novel that makes you think and gives you the coldest of chills.

Rating: 4/5

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