Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au [4/10]

I came to “Cold Enough for Snow” with high expectations: a much lauded novel with story thrusts close to my heart, parent-child closeness/distance, and art versus real life. And set in Japan, which I have loved traveling in! Alas, it fell flat from the outset. I could divine what the author was trying to get to with the way she portrayed the estranged daughter-mother pair’s touristing in Japan, the daughter’s sophistication yet separation from reality, etc., but the form of her narrative was very limp. Even the most “nothing much happens” novel can build up tension and mystery but this slim volume did none of that. It reminded me of those foreign films that don’t seem to have learnt Storytelling 101. The mother is portrayed subtly and effectively but the daughter felt wooden and unrealistic throughout. Setting is the novel’s strength, delivering wonderful scenes in places I think I’ve been but even here, something fell awry. The author’s style is my biggest beef, a toneless, unrhythmic style that sometimes even felt amateurish (e.g. she uses the phrase “such that,” which I normally only see in corporate comms, a few times). Overall, despite yearning for Cold Enough for Snow to take off, it settles as a mild-mannered, disappointing read.

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