Emily Barr is the author of The One Memory of Flora Banks - the story of a girl who can't remember anything except one kiss with a boy who's left for the Arctic. Here are Emily's five favourite books set in snowy surroundings.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
By Joan Aiken
This is my favourite book from childhood, a breathtaking adventure with snow, wolves, orphans and terrifying baddies. It’s set in an alternative Britain in 1832 when wolves stalk the countryside. There is a scene towards the beginning, in which orphaned Sylvia is travelling alone to live with her cousin, when the train stops in the middle of a snowy landscape and the passengers realise that it is surrounded by wolves. The window crashes open, and a wolf jumps in. Luckily the strange man in Sylvia’s carriage stabs it with a shard of glass, but they have to climb along the outside of the train to safety in the next carriage. It is one of the most terrifying scenes I’ve ever read and as soon as I read it, as a child, I wanted to write something like that. Now, I’m pleased to say, my children love this book as much as I do.
Over the course of a snowy Canadian winter, embittered theatre director Felix Phillips puts on his own production of The Tempest in a prison. This is Atwood’s reworking of The Tempest for the Hogarth Shakespeare Project, and it is both brilliantly clever and utterly enchanting. It’s a play within a play within a play within a novel, and it’s also a gripping narrative of revenge and redemption. This doesn’t feel at all like ‘yet another reworking of Shakespeare’. It feels like a Margaret Atwood novel, and there’s no higher praise than that.
Any list of snowy books would be incomplete without The Snowman. When I grew up in Norfolk we had snow every winter, and that feeling of waking up and looking outside and seeing that it had actually snowed is a vivid and magical memory. My brother Adam and I would dash outside and make a snowman, but they were never as good as the one in the book, and sadly they hardly ever came to life.
The Snow Leopard
A woman gave me a falling-apart copy of this book when I was alone in Australia. I put it in my backpack and read it in Nepal, then left it on a windowsill in a guesthouse for someone else to find. It’s the story of the author, Peter Matthiessen, on a quest in the Himalayas, looking for the snow leopard but also looking for meaning and peace after the death of his wife. It is a beautiful, otherworldly piece of travel writing, grounded in place and time, but also profound in its search for meaning and self. It’s one to go back to again and again. Every word is exactly right.
By Leo Tolstoy
I read this as a teenager, feeling that I and I alone was questing for the meaning of existence. Finally, in Tolstoy, I found someone who had some answers, or who was, at least, asking the questions, and I carried this book around with me for ages. I have reread Anna Karenina since: I still think it is, in many ways, the perfect novel, both epic in scale and intimate in every detail. Anna is a wonderful character, and the tragedy of her doomed affair with Vronsky, in the glorious, frosty Moscow setting, makes this huge book intensely gripping. Tolstoy tackles just about every question about what it is to be human, again and again and again.
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HOW DO YOU KNOW WHO TO TRUST WHEN YOU CAN'T EVEN TRUST YOURSELF?
I look at my hands. One of them says FLORA BE BRAVE.
Flora has anterograde amnesia. She can't remember anything day-to-day: the joke her friend made, the instructions her parents gave her, how old she is.
Then she kisses someone she shouldn't, and the next day she remembers it. It's the first time she's remembered anything since she was ten.
But the boy is gone. She thinks he's moved to the Arctic.
Will following him be the key to unlocking her memory? Who can she trust?
THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS is the unforgettable YA novel to take home in 2017.