Today I am pleased to be sharing my review of Snegurochka by Judith Heneghan as part of the blog tour. Published earlier this month, it is a story of family and motherhood, set against the backdrop of a troubling period of history.
The story takes place in Kiev in 1992, shortly after the Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union. It is here that Lucas, a journalist, has his first overseas posting, moving to Kiev as part of his freelance role for the BBC. Joining him on this trip is his wife Rachel along with their infant son, Ivan. And it is Rachel that is at the heart of this story, as she struggles with the challenges of being a new mother, which are exacerbated by her being away from home, a decision she took which had been met with much opposition. In addition to her families concerns, the local people in Kiev question Rachel’s choice to bring her baby to this city, given the recent disasters and subsequent complications resulting in a threat to young children. All this adds to Rachel’s struggles, and despite having a small unit of friends through Lucas’ work colleagues, the feeling of isolation is vividly depicted, as she struggles to find the support she needs. We see a young mother developing compulsive behaviours, as Rachel becomes obsessed with rituals which she must maintain to keep Ivan safe. But as Rachel is fearful for her baby’s safety within her own apartment, and its balcony, it becomes clear there are dangers beyond the apartment walls, and the different lives that we see beyond it, and how they become intertwined.
Snegurochka is a fascinating and multi-layered story, which effectively portrays the challenges faced not only by Rachel but those around her, and the entire city. I enjoyed meeting the different characters in this story, who all had their own stories and secrets to tell. These include the elderly caretaker, with whom Rachel shares a difficult relationship as a result of the language barrier which adds to her isolation further. There is also Rachel’s husband’s fixer, along with the local businessman who delivers a gift which turns out to be much more complicated than a simple gesture of goodwill, and overseeing them all is the young boy who lives upstairs. Each of these individual stories adds additional layers to the narrative, as Rachel begins to piece together the extraordinary world around her, one in which she remains desperate to keep her family safe. This was a complex and compelling story and there is a sense of unease throughout, as we see a contrast between the mundane aspects of daily life and survival, and the threats that arise from a country’s recent troubles. And at the heart of it all there is a story of a marriage, and of motherhood, as Rachel is forced to confront her fears, both real and imagined, as she adapts to family life in a claustrophobic environment.
I found Snegurochka to be an enjoyable read which explores some interesting themes through the complex lives of a fascinating cast of characters. It was published on 15th April 2019 by Salt Publishing, with thanks to the publisher and Emma Dowson for providing a copy for review.
This review was written as part of the blog tour, you can check out the other stops on the tour on the dates and blogs below: