Thursday, 21 October 2021

A Woman Made of Snow by Elisabeth Gifford BLOG TOUR @elisabeth04liz @CorvusBooks #AWomanMadeOfSnow @RandomTTours #BookReview


Scotland, 1949: Caroline Gillan and her new husband Alasdair have moved back to Kelly Castle, his dilapidated family estate in the middle of nowhere. Stuck caring for their tiny baby, and trying to find her way with an opinionated mother-in-law, Caroline feels adrift, alone and unwelcome.

But when she is tasked with sorting out the family archives, Caroline discovers a century-old mystery that sparks her back to life. There is one Gillan bride who is completely unknown - no photos exist, no records have been kept - the only thing that is certain is that she had a legitimate child. Alasdair's grandmother.

As Caroline uncovers a strange story that stretches as far as the Arctic circle, her desire to find the truth turns obsessive. And when a body is found in the grounds of the castle, her hunt becomes more than just a case of curiosity. What happened all those years ago? Who was the bride? And who is the body...?

A Woman Made Of Snow by Elisabeth Gifford was published by Corvus on 7 October 2021. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour. 

I have been reading Elisabeth Gifford's novels for almost ten years now and have reviewed all four of her previous books on Random Things. She is a wonderful talent and I always look forward to a new book from her.

Here is an author who gets better and better, I have loved all of her books but this one, in my opinion, is her very best yet. I was utterly captivated by the story and particularly enjoyed learning about the whale boats of Scotland and the inclusion of the Inuit people. It is a triumph, so beautiful and at times so very heart breaking, there's one particular part that brought tears to my eyes. It is haunting and lyrical and steeped in history. 

In 1949, Caro and Alisdair are living at his family home; Kelly Castle. The Castle is old and run down, rurally isolated and not at all what the young couple had planned. The arrival of their baby daughter, so soon after their marriage changed their plans for high flying careers and whilst Alisdair is employed locally, Caro's dreams of obtaining a job in academic research have been put on hold. She also has to endure the well-meaning, but frustrating interference from her mother in law. 

There's a mystery in the family. There's no records to say who Alisdair's great-grandmother was. The records seem to have been wiped clean, all the family know is that she disappeared, leaving her small daughter behind. When Caro takes on the task of sorting through the family archives, she feels like she has a purpose again, and can use her brain.  After a bad storm, the remains of a body are found buried under a tree in the Castle grounds; is this the mystery woman?  Caro is determined to find out. 

The author then takes her reader back to the late 1880s and we meet Charlotte and Louisa, two young women who spend their holidays at Kelly Castle, then owned by their aunt - a woman who is not very welcoming to the two girls.  

This is a wonderfully written, sweeping story that is a love story, as well as a years-old mystery and as the reader travels from Scotland, to the Arctic, on a whaling boat crewed by hardened men, the mysteries deepen. 

Elisabeth Gifford excels in creating characters and places that spring to life, be it the harsh conditions upon the ship, or the coldness of a stone castle in the wilds of Scotland, the reader is there, truly experiencing just what the characters see and do. The transition back and forth between the two eras is seamlessly done and the two time lines are woven together cleverly and expertly. 

It's a fascinating look at class and family relationships too, the horrendous snobbery and dreadful treatment of some of the characters is utterly heartbreaking at times and left me feeling more than a little upset. The author doesn't hold back, there is no sugar coating here and the at times it is harsh and unrelenting, but it is always beautiful and sympathetically done. 

A wonderful story that I recommend highly. 

Elisabeth Gifford grew up in a vicarage in the industrial Midlands. 

She studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University. She has a Diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford OUDCE and an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway. 

She is married with three children, and lives in Kingston upon Thames. 

A Woman Made of Snow is her fifth novel.

Twitter @elisabeth04liz

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