This is the beautiful first sentence of The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham, a story about the two brothers Tyler and Barrett.
Tyler, the eldest, is a musician, why tries to write a song for his girlfriend Beth, who is dying. He hopes drugs will give him the inspiration and the talent he needs for what he hopes to accomplish, but he also thinks he will be able to kick the habit soon.
Barrett did all kinds of studies and had all kinds of jobs, and now he works in the boutique that is owned by Beth and their friend Liz. He is waiting for love and the moment life will finally begin.
The light he sees, even though he also doubts if it was real, changes Barrett. He lost his faith when he was a child, but now he goes to church again. Not that he participates, he sits in the back and that is all, but somehow he hopes he will receive another sign, telling him the light was real and there is more to life.
The story begins in November 2004, on the evening before the election between Bush and Kerry. It then takes it to New Year’s Eve 2006 and it ends in November 2008. By then the lives of Tyler and Barrett have changed, probably for the better, although both of them also think it can go wrong again at any moment.
The fairytale The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen is the basis for this story, but that is done in a very subtle way. It is not a retelling of the story, only some elements are mentioned throughout the story.Other themes are also done in such a subtle way, like the politics that are mentioned and the light Barrett sees. That is never heavy-handed or mentioned constantly, although it does become clear it had quite an effect on Barrett.
In a very beautiful way Michael Cunningham manages to describe the lives of Tyler and Barrett, their fears and doubts, the things they do ad the changes they experience, making them come very close to the reader who can relate to them.
I previously read The hours and By nightfall, and after The Snow Queen I firmly say: I am a fan!
Published in 2014