'Overpowering and beautiful ... Ambitious, outrageous, poignant, sleep-disturbing' Simon Schama on Birdsong
1914: Young Anton Heideck has arrived in Vienna, eager to make his name as a journalist. While working part-time as a private tutor, he encounters Delphine, a woman who mixes startling candour with deep reserve. Entranced by the light of first love, Anton feels himself blessed. Until his country declares war on hers.
1927: For Lena, life with a drunken mother in a small town has been impoverished and cold. She is convinced she can amount to nothing until a young lawyer, Rudolf Plischke, spirits her away to Vienna. But the capital proves unforgiving. Lena leaves her metropolitan dream behind to take a menial job at the snow-bound sanatorium, the Schloss Seeblick.
1933: Still struggling to come terms with the loss of so many friends on the Eastern Front, Anton, now an established writer, is commissioned by a magazine to visit the mysterious Schloss Seeblick. In this place of healing, on the banks of a silvery lake, where the depths of human suffering and the chances of redemption are explored, two people will see each other as if for the first time.
Sweeping across Europe as it recovers from one war and hides its face from the coming of another, SNOW COUNTRY is a landmark novel of exquisite yearnings, dreams of youth and the sanctity of hope. In elegant, shimmering prose, Sebastian Faulks has produced a work of timeless resonance.
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Another sure fire hit by one of my favourite authors. Although a companion to Human Traces, Snow Country is less about the analysis of the human mind, but continues the theme of the human spirit. Mainly covering the period from the First World War to the early 1930s, it is a story about love, struggle and survival during the difficult times in Austria following the loss of Empire and the rise of Fascism.
The stories of Lena and Anton are beautifully described as they journey through their pre-middle age lives encountering adversity in upbringing, the horrors of war and loss, but making a place for themselves in the world nevertheless.
Highly recommended and hoping that the third book in the trilogy follows quicker than the second!
Sebastian Faulks latest historical novel spans the years from 1903 to 1933, encompassing the political turbulence of the time, the war torn years of WW1 and the pre-war rise of Nazism and the right wing in Austria and Vienna. It examines this period of history, structured into 5 parts, through 3 people, through the lives of the Styrian journalist and author, Anton Heideck, who with his best friend, Friedrich, are students in Vienna, he has no intention of returning home to help run the family blood sausage company. As he struggles to establish himself in his chosen career, he takes on private tutoring which is how he meets the French Delphine Fourmentier, falling for her as the two embark on a passionate love affair that have them setting up home in the Vienna Woods. In 1914 he is reporting on the trial of Henriette Caillaux in Paris, hoping that war does not begin..
However, he is doomed to be disappointed, and upon his return home finds Delphine has gone. His harrowing experience of fighting in the war has him seriously injured. The horrors of what he sees, the huge losses that include friends, leaves him unsurprisingly with PTSD, finding it hard to come to terms with the loss of Delphine, exacerbated by not knowing whether she is alive or dead. Rudolf Plischke is a idealist young lawyer committed to the Rebirth party with its spiritual aspects. The impoverished Carinthian Lena meets Rudolf when she is 15 years old, illiterate, with a mother, Carina, who likes to drink, who has given away all the children she gave birth to, keeping only Lena. At Rudolf's urging, Lena moves to Vienna, only to find it an unforgiving place. She takes a menial post at the Schloss Seeblick, a place Anton has been sent to write an article evaluating the state of psychiatry and whether Austria has lost its pre-eminence to the newer psychotherapies utilised in the U.S.
Both Anton and Lena are to find help with their mental health issues from the strong and independent therapist, Martha Midwinter, the daughter of one of the founders of the Schloss, with Anton aided by learning what happened to Delphine, and Lena finally overcoming her sense of shame over her time in Vienna. Austrian psychiatry had moved on from the early mistakes of the influential Freud, his unhealthy and unhelpful obsession with hysteria, and it is Martha who embodies the forefront of the profession with her more compassionate, less judgemental talking therapies, and the hope it offers for a wide variety of prevaling mental health issues. They provide people with the potential of moving on and being able to live and love in a Europe and Austria that seem determined to be at war, damaging, killing and destroying the lives of countless millions in the run up to WW2.
This is a wonderfully insightful novel that covers key issues from this historical period, the impact of war, and the relationships between 3 people who live through it, and the evolution of psychiatry in its capacity to help, seen through Martha's work, even though she is not a qualified psychiatrist. Highly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher for an ARC.
Sebastian Faulks has written another excellent book. It doesn't read like the second in a trilogy which I am glad about as I discovered that I DNF'd Human Traces in 2015! I shall have to revisit it. This book has a great cast of characters and is quite moving and emotional in places. I liked the character of Lena very much. It was an interesting journey through a desperate and depressing time in Austria and the other close countries involved in the Great War. I do hope that the third in the trilogy doesnt take as long to appear as this one did. With thanks to NetGalley, the publishers and the author for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Although I would recommend all books from this author, this book was definitely on another level! I can not recommend this book enough
Set in Austria between the waning days of the Austro
Hungarian Empire and the
unsettling and menacing
times that foreshadow the
Hitlerian catastrophe, this
gorgeous novel tell the life stories of Anton & Lena, as they love, hope, despair and struggle before and after the painful ordeals of WWI and their bittersweet
encounter at the cusp of the 1930s.
Gorgeously written and exquisitely cast, this novel
is a beautiful and haunting
portrait of an Austrian society that is very much reminiscent of the sad and marvellous tales of Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth.
I loved this magnificent
fictional journey. Mr Faulks is without any doubt one of the best wordsmiths at work today in English literature.
Highly recommended and to be enjoyed without any moderation whatsoever!
Many thanks to Netgalley and Random/Cornestone for this terrific ARC.
I read this book very quickly as I wanted to know what happened, so I then reread it to enjoy Sebastian Faulks' lovely writing.
Anton Heideck has a history that is full of conflict. Lena has a complicated background. Anton was badly injured emotionally and physically during the First World War. Lena is the daughter of an alcoholic mother and an absent father, who has never known affection. The book tells both their stories, and their seemingly chance meetings.
Beautifully crafted characters, an interesting plot line and glorious detail make this another winning novel from Sebastian Faulks.
I really enjoyed reading this one. Part wanderlust, part troubled upbringing, part missed connections and the slow reveal of where paths meet kept me interested throughout.
This novel is set in Austria around the beginning of the 20th Century. The action centres on 3 characters: Lena, a young woman with minimal education, brought up by an alcoholic mother and learning to be self-sufficient at an early age she moves between suspicion and romance. Rudolf is an idealistic young student, the member of a radical Christian political group, and Anton, who loves Delphine, an older woman he meets in Vienna, until his country declares war on hers and he goes off to fight, returning to Vienna with a damaged lung and damaged psyche.
The action moves between Vienna and a psychiatric hospital, where the new theories of Freud are a strong influence on treatment. Lena encounters both Rudolf and Anton in Vienna, moves to work in the hospital where (somewhat improbably) they both end up visiting for different reasons.
The novel has a broad scope, covering love and loss, the politics of Austria at the beginning of the century and the aftermath of the First World War as the country moves to the right and the growing influence of Hitler.
It is a gripping read, and I enjoyed it. Many thanks to Negalley and the publisher for a review copy.
Wonderful wonderful book from one of my favourite authors.
1914 Anton meets Delphine a tutor, who he fell in love with. But war came and they were split apart.
Lena who has a drunk as a mother and feels very much useless, until she meets Rudolph who made her very happy, but he left her.
Lena then goes to work in a sanatorium where her mother worked, and is happy there.
Anton goes to the sanatorium to write about it as he is a well known journalist, where he meets Lena.
They had met before but Anton has no memory of her, but they decide to have a relationship.
Thanks loved it.
This is the first book by Sebastian Faulks I have read and it is utterly amazing.
The book has so many facet. A love story lasting over three decades. A social history of the early part of the 20th century with in depth descriptions of events leading to the First World War and the inter war years and the rise of Hitlers power. The early years of mental health and the effect that it had on women to control them.
His descriptions of his characters go to such depths that you invest in their outcomes and want them to achieve their heart’s desire but like real life there are many disappointments.
I cannot praise this book enough and although it is the second book in a trilogy it stands well on its own
Sebastian Faulks always gets the intimate details of history right and with novels such as Birdsong, Charlotte Gray and now Snow Country he has set a standard so high it will be a long time before any novelist will equal him.
In an emotionally devastating return to Schloss Seeblick the author again explores the price of being human. This is an ambitious and compassionate novel with vividly drawn characters and an unforgettable love story. It is written with passion and integrity and was an absolute pleasure to read.
I haven’t read the first episode of this trilogy but this story perfectly stands alone. The years from the early part of the20th century to the mid 1930s are used in the story of Lena and Anton the main characters beautifully described. Very atmospheric in the pictures of Vienna and the hospital where the mental consciousness is studied and treated. The First World War is briefly used as is the construction of the Panama Canal all cleverly intertwined with the main characters history with Lena the daughter of an alcoholic prostitute and her own seeming descent to mimicking her mother while Anton pursues a journalistic writer career. Later the threat of Fascism lurks in the background of what is a satisfying read. Now I need to read the first part while waiting for the third!
I must admit I like Sebastian Faulks and his writing style - this book does not disappoint. I did not realise that this was the second book in a trilogy (though it can be read as a stand alone which is just as well as I had not read the first).
The story takes place over a 30 year time frame and follows the story of three main characters from Pre World War One through the war and up to pretty much the start of World War Two.
The book is split into parts that switch between characters and times and locations. The story is set in Austria at a very turbulent time and as with other books by Faulks the historical backdrop plays an important role.
The story is one of love that rolls over many years and twists and turns. the descriptions of cities and places gives you a real sense of wanderlust.
The book is pretty long but it captivates you and draws you into it. It's a fantastic read and I will look forward to the next instalment.
Snow country manages to powerfully combine a detailed and intimate focus on the lives and minds of its main characters, with a grand overview of a tumultuous and rapidly changing world across three decades.
The novel interrogates how all our lives are shaped by forces outside our control but rather than evoking a feeling of hopelessness, Faulkes manages to convey the complete opposite – this is a book about resilience, love and desire, where human suffering is counter balanced by hope and the chance of redemption.
Snow Country is the second book in a trilogy, but I haven’t read the first book in the series, and it worked really well for me as a stand-alone novel.
The book tells the story of Lena, a girl born to an alcoholic mother in a small town in southern Austria in 1906, Anton, the restless son of a bourgeois family who sets out to make his fortune in pre-First World War Vienna, and the idealistic young lawyer Rudolf Plischke, who wants to change the world. Their lives move apart over the years but come together again in 1934 at the atmospheric snow-capped sanatorium Schloss Seeblick, where human suffering is laid painfully bare but there remains a chance to rebuild broken lives.
Faulkes’ ability to stitch together grand themes and sweeping page-turning narrative together with the innermost feelings of truly believable characters is truly impressive. Even the minor players come to life as he takes us to the heart of what it means to be human.
Sweeping across a fragile and frightening Europe precariously placed between two wars, Snow Country is the kind of book that sucks you into its world, with its elegant prose, superbly paced narrative and tantalising glimpses of a better world.
With thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for an ARC in return for an honst review.
I absolutely adored this novel by Sebastian Faulks, a story of love, loss and hope set in the time between the wars. Gorgeous prose and fascinating settings. As ever, Faulks is brilliant at getting inside the female psyche. Highly recommended.
With SNOW COUNTRY, Sebastian Faulks reaffirms his place as one of the greatest novelists of our times. It is both learned and lyrical and confirms Mr Faulks’ role as the voice of the human heart.
The narrative starts in Vienna, where we meet a series of characters who are standing on the threshold of First World War. All over Europe, lives and loves are being thrown into chaos. Although we already know this intellectually, the beauty of SNOW COUNTRY is that we feel it as well. The characters are exquisitely rendered so that when this person goes missing, the reader is left anxiously awaiting news that may or may not ever come. Because the novel is being played out against actual events from the first half of the 20th century, the reader effectively holds a crystal ball over the characters’ plans. It’s a tantalising, yet heart-breaking position to be in, and I was conscious of trying to slow myself down and savour the piece rather than just rush on to find out what happens.
There is so much to admire about Sebastian Faulks, not least the way he seems to renew his rules of engagement with each novel. In SNOW COUNTRY the backdrop is the great sweep of early 20th-century history and the big debates underway in politics and psychology. Yet, while reading, I kept thinking of Monet’s waterlilies and how Faulks’ prose feels like a form of narrative impressionism. It’s this accumulation of perfect details, a verbal pointillism if you will, which brings the lives and loves of his characters to life. As readers we are then able to zoom in and out between the enormous, unfathomable canvass of history, and the minutiae of the hearts and minds which speak to us the most.
All in all, another triumph for Sebastian Faulks. With many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for letting me see an advance copy of SNOW COUNTRY.
I have read Sebastian Faulks’ other books over many years and this book is definitely as powerful as his others. This book follows the story started in Human Traces, published in 2005. I remember reading it on honeymoon in Thailand in 2006 and loving it. I wish the gap between reading these wasn’t as long, I can only remember the actual story vaguely (it was a long time ago!).
In this beautiful story, we are introduced to Anton, a young man in Vienna before WW1, working as a low paid journalist and tutor. He meets the French Delphine and falls in love. When he returns from working in Paris just as war breaks out, Delphine has disappeared. He is injured in the war and struggles with PTSD and grief afterwards. Lena is a daughter of an alcoholic, the first child Carina does not give up to the orphanage. Lena grows up knowing she is different from the other children. After she has lived in Vienna for a while she hears her mother has died. She comes home and starts working in the hospital that featured in Human Traces. Anton comes to write an article about the facility and stays on as a patient.
I was expecting this to be a harder read than it was. Some of the difficult and sadder parts are tackled in the context of the therapist’s sessions. There is also quite a lot of philosophical debate, but it’s not too hard to process. For me, this is a story with immense healing and lonely souls finding solace with one another. A beautiful and thought-provoking story 🇦🇹❤️📚