Wow! Elisabeth Gifford is fast becoming one of my favourite authors, especially as she has such a beautiful and unique haunting writing style that completely captures my heart.
Released on 7th October 2021, A Woman Made of Snow is the second Gifford novel that I have read and adored; as back in early 2020 I had the privilege of reading and reviewing The Lost Lights of St Kilda, a novel that has stayed with me and one I know I will reread.
A Woman Made of Snow is the ideal Halloween read. The captivating plot of a century-long family mystery involving a missing bride, the discovery of a dead body on the grounds of a Scottish castle and Arctic bound expeditions, I was never quite sure where the haunting story would lead. I did have some suspicions but I’m so pleased to say that my suspicions were completely off the mark. I was definitely not prepared for the almighty twist within this story. Nor was I prepared for the deep emotional impact that this twist had on me as a reader.
Set in the Victorian era and also in the late 1940s, the novel is told using a dual timeline as it skilfully explores the complex and often complicated relationships between a new bride and their mother-in-law.
A new mother, Caro Gillan feels alone and adrift as she tries to make sense of her new life at Kelly Castle, the dilapidated estate in a wild, remote area of Fife belonging to the family of her husband, Alasdair. Adding to her unease is the constant, suffocating presence of Martha, her mother-in-law. However if I’m honest, I actually liked Martha and did feel at times that Caro was a tad unfair to her mother-in-law.
With the Gillan family struggling to maintain Kelly Castle, the family reluctantly feel they need to approach the National Trust to take over some of the castle. Yet before they approach the National Trust, they need to sort out the archive of Kelly’s history.
Caro is tasked with sorting the family archive; a job she is happy to do as her curiosity is sparked when she is told of a missing bride, who also happens to be her husband’s great-grandmother.
We know she had a child, our grandmother, Eugenia, a legitimate child who inherited the castle, so we assume the woman in question must have been properly married to our great-grandfather, but that’s all we know, no first name, not a trace of her. Not even an actual marriage certificate. Record’s been scraped clean. I don’t know what she did to deserve such obliteration but it must have been rather dreadful.
But then Caro’s curiosity turns to sinister unease when the bones of a dead woman are found buried on the grounds of the castle. Are these the bones of Alasdair’s great-grandmother? And why are they buried in a secret, hidden grave?
As Caro searches for answers and a lost diary is found which details an expedition to the Arctic, the unsettling family mystery is revealed. And crikey, what a revelation it is.
Coming from a Scottish family that is obsessed with Scottish history, I felt I knew lots about the history of Scotland. However I never knew about the Victorian Arctic expeditions from Dundee. I found this fascinating.
In fact the whole novel is fascinating, truly captivating and so rich in haunting historical detail.
Thank you once again to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of the blog tour of A Woman Made of Snow. Thank you also to Elisabeth Gifford for once again for giving me an all-consuming and beautiful reading experience.
To view the reviews from my fellow book bloggers also on the blog tour of this brilliant read, please see below.