Stuck in Crimbo limbo? Here are five wintry reads to curl up with
The Siege by Helen Dunmore (Penguin)
Set during the vicious winter of 1941, as Hitler's armies lay siege to the city of Leningrad, this wonderful novel follows the battle for survival of Anna Levin, her young brother, her dying father, and her lover. It is so cold that people freeze to death in the streets. The Levin family must boil leather to make soup, and burn their books for warmth. And all the while, the Nazis are circling. A great, bleak read.
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Egmont)
I loved these tales of 19th-century frontier living when I was a child, especially the resourcefulness of the Ingalls family – Ma, Pa, Mary, Laura and baby Carrie – who lived inside the cosy log cabin built by Pa and kept themselves entertained even as snow reached the rooftop. One day the girls make candy by pouring molten molasses into the snow - an exotic idea in rural Northamptonshire.
Snowdrops by A.D. Miller (Atlantic)
Shortlisted for last year’s Man Booker Prize, this accomplished Russia-set thriller follows Nicholas, an expat lawyer enjoying all the thrills Moscow has to give, including a love affair which is not all that it seems. “Snowdrops” is city slang for the bodies that turn up when the snows melt in the spring, either homeless people who simply lay down to die – or murder victims.
The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge (Abacus)
Beryl Bainbridge’s 1991 novel recounts the tragic story of Captain Scott’s Terra Nova expedition to the North Pole, told from the points of view of five members of his team. The Antarctic is beautifully rendered, from the silent wastes to the blizzards and frostbite.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (Headline Review)
This debut isn’t published until February, but order it now. Jack and Mabel are a childless couple who moved to the lonesome wildernesses of Alaska for a new start. When the first snows come, they build a girl in their garden – in the morning she has gone, but they glimpse a real child running into the woods. This is a real novel of survival – of shooting and trapping for food, of eking existence from the land, and tramping through waist-high snow. It is also a beguiling tale of love and longing, inspired by Russian folklore.