Cover Image: Snow Country

Snow Country

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I am normally a huge Faulks fan but this did not feel as though it were one of his stronger novels.  It takes the usual big themes, here Europe in the early 20th century, and a focus on psychology however I felt the book somewhat repetitive.  It almost felt as though Faulks wants to show-off his knowledge and understanding of the human condition at the expense of the reader who wants to be entertained
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This book is written from a distance. It is like casual observations and you don't feel the people are real. There is a bunch of irrelevant details about mental health treatments, but really there is just an abstract attempt at a plot that does not end with any surprise or any feeling. Disappointing from this author
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Set in Austria in the early part of the twentieth century, this is an ambitious novel that fails to hit the spot. The characters are fairly nondescript and lack depth. Despite being set during a volatile period in history, the novel lacks dynamism and is almost plodding in places. All of that being said, some of the historical sections, particularly those dealing with the history of psychoanalysis, were engaging and well-written.
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I'm a huge Sebastian Faulks fan, and 'Snow Country' is truly Faulks at his masterful best. A profoundly moving love story set within the blinding terror and ruins of war, it is tender, intelligent and evocative. Though second in a trilogy, this can certainly be read on its own. I highly recommend to anyone who loves books brimming with social history, conflict history, politics, luminous prose, love and loss.
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I hate being a defeatist, unfortunately, there are times when I simply have to walk away. At first, I was delighted to see that Sebastian Faulks had written a new book. I tried, I really tried to get into the storyline, without success. It's happened before with the author. I either can't put his books down and will read until there are no more words or I start and try and get nowhere! 

Am I the only person to feel this way? Hopefully not!
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What a wonderful book! I love this authors writing. So immersive, emotional and a brilliant storyteller. I love stories that span different time periods, and this was one fascinating read. Such a poignant novel that I will think about for a long time.
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Emotive and in depth character driven historical fiction. Fantastic reviews speak for themselves definitely recommend this book!
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I received an ARC of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. He is such a highly rated author and although I have not really liked any of his previous work this one's scenario appealed.
The opening was excellent but had precious little to do with the rest of the book. I was doing reasonably well with it - I could even say enjoying it but the cumulative effect of nothing happening, multiple characters with very little to make the reader warm to them and turgid narrative meant thet overall it was like wading through treacle.

I have really struggled to pick the book up and getting through it was no mean feat
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Some incredibly brilliant parts where I just couldn’t put the book down but feel there were times when the plot meandered too much. However definitely recommend and worth a read.
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Snow Country
Sebastian Faulks
Hutchinson Heinemann
Four stars
This is the second in a loose trilogy, following on from 2005’s Human Traces, a sprawling novel of ideas about two late-19th century pioneers of psychiatric medicine, Thomas Midwinter and Jacques Rebière, who opened a sanatorium on an Austrian lakeside. 
It is 1914 and Anton Heideck, an aspiring journalist in Vienna, falls in love with a Frenchwoman called Delphine. The outbreak of war conspires to separate them and he is heartbroken. 
Fast forward to the late 1920s where Lena, daughter of a drunkard mother, is growing up poverty-stricken and yearning for her father. After a disappointing love affair and dabbling in prostitution, she takes a job as a cleaner at the sanatorium.
There she encounters Martha, Thomas Midwinter’s kind daughter who competently and humanely runs the institution and resolutely brings out the best in Lena, who like her mother, has a penchant for drink.
When Anton is commissioned to write a magazine article about mental health he arrives at the sanatorium, and ends up staying, having found it a balm to his tortured soul. 
He and Lena’s paths inevitably collide – not for the first time, it turns out -- and as they search their own souls for meaning in a chaotic world, they find each other in unexpected ways. This is a melancholy, slow-paced novel, yet which leaves the reader filled with hope in the end.
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Absolutely wonderful.  Decades later I am back to the first book of this author I ever read.  I didn’t need a film or images I conjured them up myself it is a stunning stunning book congratulations and thankyou for producing such work.
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A well written book. Set between 1903 and 1933 this character driven novel focusses on 3 main characters who at meet in 1933 at the Schloss Seeblick, a sanatorium known for successfully treating patients with mental imbalances. It was insightful getting to know the characters and in his own unique writing style, Faulks builds these characters slowly, and at times I did find the pace of the novel a little slow, but that's just my personal view. This is part of a trilogy, but having not read the previous books, this can be read as a standalone.
Thank-you to Sebastian Faulks, Random House UK, and NetGalley for arc in exchange for my honest review.
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Hearts and minds…	

As a younger son, Anton Heidick is expected to stay at home in his small town in Styria and take over his father’s sausage-making business. Anton wants to go to Vienna to study, though, and his parents don’t stop him although they refuse to support him financially. So he works his way through by tutoring the young son of a wealthy family, and there he meets Delphine, who is paid to teach French to the daughter of the house. This will be the beginning of a love affair that will have a major part in shaping Anton’s future. On leaving university, Anton decides he wants to be a journalist, and gradually builds a small reputation as a foreign correspondent, sent off to witness major events around the world. But it’s now 1914, and the clouds of war are gathering across Europe…

We meet Lena in the late 1920s, and learn of her difficult childhood as the child of an illiterate and often drunken woman, who earns a living partly through prostitution and partly by working as a cleaner at the Schloss Seeblick, a kind of mental health sanatorium in a mountain valley in Carinthia. Lena too makes her way to Vienna, where she becomes involved with Rudolph, a young left-wing activist. But things don’t work out as she expected, and when her mother dies she returns to Carinthia, and is offered her mother’s old job at the sanatorium. It is to here that, a few years later, Anton too will come, firstly to write an article about the sanatorium, and then to seek help for his own mental health problems, a leftover from his experiences during the war years.

The underlying plot in this is rather slight, based around Anton’s love for Delphine and Lena’s search to find a place for herself in a world that hasn’t shown her much sympathy or opportunity. But the story is in some way simply a vehicle to allow Faulks to show us various aspects of Austrian society and to create a general picture of the period from just before the First World War to within sight of the Second. 

Anton and Lena are the main characters, but three others play significant roles and give us different perspectives: Delphine, a Frenchwoman who will find herself living in an enemy country when the war starts; Rudolph, the young socialist that Lena is involved with in Vienna, who allows us glimpses of the complex political situation in this part of Europe; and Martha, the daughter of the founder of the Schloss Seeblick, who now acts as both administrator and therapist, and who gives some insight into the development of psychoanalysis in Austria in the wake of Freud’s theories. Unusually for contemporary fiction, all of the characters are likeable, and all are fundamentally decent people trying to do their best, despite their normal human weaknesses and flaws. I found that deeply refreshing, and was happy to find myself totally involved in each of their stories.

Anton’s career as a journalist also takes us to other places, giving little vignettes within the main story, designed to show the state of the world at this uneasy time. He visits Panama to witness the completion of the canal, and muses on the roles of France and America, the rise of the new powers in the world and the decay of the old. He casually mentions the workforce, treated little better than slaves, but as a man of his time, he accepts this without much question. Later he attends the trial in Paris of Mme Cailloux (a real person), wife of a prominent politician, who stands accused of shooting the editor of Le Figaro. This gives Faulks room to give an excellent picture of France just before the war, with half the population wanting peace and the other half clamouring for war to wipe out the stain of past defeats and show that France is a major power yet. 

I would have happily had a whole book of Anton travelling from place to place, showing us the world through major news events. The sudden change to Lena’s life makes sense and works well in the end, but on the whole I didn’t find her life as interesting at Anton’s. However it’s through her relationship with Rudolph that we see the rise of extremism at both ends of the political spectrum initially, before fascism won out. Rudolph’s story also lets us see the growing resentment between the politically sophisticated and relatively wealthy Viennese urbanites and the people of rural Austria, poorer, less well educated and with fewer opportunities. 

I feel I’ve made this book sound horribly heavyweight and a bit polemical, so let me correct that. Faulks writes with a light hand, and all these background events are never allowed to stop the flow of the human story of our characters’ lives. There are some tragic incidents which are treated with welcome restraint, some occasional humour to lift the tone, and affairs of the heart – not hearts and flowers romances, but grown-up, complex relationships with a feeling of truth about them. Of course I have some criticisms – perhaps a little lack of depth, too much discussion of Freud for my taste, a rather too neat ending – but none of these seriously affected my overall enjoyment. I was completely absorbed throughout and sorry to leave the characters behind when the last page turned. Apparently the book is the second in a loose Austrian trilogy, although each also stands on its own, and I’m looking forward to going back to read the first, Human Traces, and seeing where Faulks takes us in the third. Highly recommended.
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I have loved all Sebastian Faulks' books and Snow Country is no exception. Faulks has an ability to draw the reader in gradually, stealthily almost, until they are transported to another time, another place.

The writing in Snow Country is languid, unhurried, and beautiful. Slowly slowly you become more invested in the story of Lena and Anton. Two broken souls finding their way to one another. Finding acceptance. Closing the book on the past. 

With themes of political unrest and the seemingly inescapable march towards war, this is a spotlight on the human condition.

Another triumph.
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It was like we had not been away from the Austrian clinic that is the focus of this novel.  Human Traces originally introduced us to the challenges of love, life, mental illness, psychiatric innovation and war.  These themes return.  There is an air of melancholy in the book describing  the life of the key characters from the first world War through to the 1930s.  However Sebastian Faulks' writing is so absorbing and evocative. Through his vocabulary and descriptive language the reader can picture each scene and feel the emotions of all the key players in the story. An epic in his inimitable style.
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Sebastian Faulkes never fails to write an engaging, interesting novel. and once again he has excelled. Covering familiar themes from previous novels : the horrors of the first world war, class warfare, and the development of psychoanalysis. . The plot cleverly weaves the stories of 3 very different people in Austria  over the space of 20 years or so.  I was engaged throughout, wonderful descriptions of  time and place. and I was delighted with the ending. Thank you Netgalley and random house for the e-copy.
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This is the second book by Faulks that I have read, the first being “Birdsong”, and yet again I find I am unable to relate to it, despite Snow Country being full of subjects I find interesting such as politics, psychoanalysis and love. There are three main characters in this story, Anton, a journalist, Lena, a maid, and Rudolph, a lawyer. Their lives intersect at the Schloss Seeblick, a sanatorium in Austria. 
Essentially a love story, I just couldn’t connect with it and I find Faulks’s writing devoid of emotional resonance. I want to be immersed or riveted by a story and although it was sufficiently well written enough to keep me reading, there wasn’t enough to involve me.
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Anton, a successful journalist has never recovered from the great war and losing Delphine, for whom he is still searching. Lena has never been successful or happy but remembers one man from a night as a sex worker in Vienna. They meet again at the Schloss, a psychiatric hospital where she is working, she instantly recognises him and she reminds him of Delphine but nothing else. The hospital proves to be the place where he finds his true self. Brilliantly written, taking the reader back to those dark days post war ,and leading up to WW2.
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This is the first novel I have read by author Sebastian Faulks.  I know he is a highly regarded, well established author, so I was very interested to read this book.

The novel, Snow Country, is set in Austria in the early 20th century.  The first part introduces you to the character Anton, an aspiring journalist/writer.  We meet him first as a child, follow his education and first attempts at writing and then he travels, first to write about the building of the Panama Canal.  He falls in love with a French woman Delphine but she disappears whilst he is in the Army, during the war, fighting the French.

The next section is all about Lena.  She has a difficult childhood with a drunken mother and as a young adult is a bit lost and very much alone.

I found part one a bit slow if I'm honest.  I was getting a bit fed up with Anton!  But then you turn the page and start Lena's story and I felt so engaged in her backstory and was willing her a good future.  Alongside this, you have to wonder how the two main characters will ever meet and interact.  Of course they do, eventually and by that stage, I was totally absorbed in the story and ploughing through the brilliantly written text.

This is part love story, written against an accurate (as far as I know) historical backdrop.  There is great hardship, a fabulous sense of place and a very interesting set of characters which bring the story alive.  I loved it in the end - I just found part one a bit of a plod.

Highly recommended.

Thank you to NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
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This is a loose follow up to Human Traces and a trilogy is planned. As ever, the writing is beguiling. It is a story of the workings of the human mind and cognisance, focussing on relationships and bound by the confluence of major world events.

The novel starts in the early 20th Century and moves through the first couple of decades. Soon WW1 is looming. Anton Heideck meets Frenchwoman Delphine and their relationship develops into a deep love. However, the French are on the opposite side and Delphine disappears, ironically whilst he is in Paris, leaving him distraught. After a stint in the army during the war, he develops into a writer of some note, and he next pops up in Carinthia (Kärnten) when the war is but a distant memory. He is at Schloss Seeblick, a lakeside building that is a sanatorium, and it first featured in Human Traces.

We follow the story not only of Anton, but of Lena, who has not had an easy childhood and her experience of men has really not been positive. She is desperate to connect with her absent father, and ultimately ends up working in the sanatorium, where her mother also once worked. How life can come full circle! It is the circularity of human life that is one of the themes of the novel, the wars come and go, countries teeter, go to the brink and come back, whilst knowledge, like the wheels on a vehicle, continues to move on.

As political and societal changes ensue, the characters have to adapt and develop. There are historical touchstones which anchor the storytelling, but the people can often be far removed from the world maelstrom, simply just trying to live their lives. All the main characters, including Martha (who runs the sanatorium and happens to be the daughter of one of the founders) and Rudolf (an activist, whose ideology is in stark contrast to the ruling party), slide in and out of the narrative, pass through, perhaps leave their mark, but it is the psychological nature of humanity that has clearly gripped the author.

By the 1930s things have changed significantly in the study of mental health but Freud's hypothesising is still a major cornerstone. The culture at Schloss Seeblick now needs considerable adjustment. This is not a plot driven novel but it is telling of ideas and exchanges, with history and psychology adding a rich dimension.

The book hovers around in the first half, I would say, and then gets into its stride as it moves through the years; and of course, before long, political tumult is unfolding in a neighbouring country. The writing, as anctipated, is exquisite and the story at some levels can quite demanding of the reader.
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