I’m going to be honest, I should have written this post a long time ago. I should have read Seas of Snow a lot quicker. I wanted to read it quicker – in one long uninterrupted sitting. Probably with a quiet hour or two after to sit and reflect. However that is not always how the world works, with some books that’s not a problem. You can dip in and out, like a piece of fruit on the go, they nourish you quickly – normally leaving a sweet taste.
This is not a book that you can pick up when you have a spare ten minutes to kill. Kerensa Jennings carefully weaves a narrative that demands attention, whilst the subject itself demands respect. Seas of Snow appealed to me instantly with its distinctive northern voice. As much as I love Coronation Street, as a northern lass sometimes I want another northern, working class voice. Kerensa uses phrases that transport you directly into the working class world of Newcastle in the 50’s – without the need to google half the words, wondering what on earth they mean. You feel as if you too, could be leaning on kitchen counter in one of the houses, gossiping about the couple at number 6.
I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but let’s say this: it follows Gracie, whose normal life is violently interrupted through the arrival of her uncle, and his sudden inclusion in the household.
A lot of the time abuse, especially of women can seem fetishized at worse, or used as a lazy plot device at best. The descriptions are graphic and meant to shock then are conveniently swept away after the victim has been stripped bare. Seas of Snow takes a different track – and in a way makes it more effective. Gracie is young, very young and the writing reflects this. Again, I don’t want to let slip any spoilers – however the events in the book are made even more chilling by the innocence – and confusion – with which Gracie comprehends them. As you progress through Seas of Snow, you know what is happening, and what is to come. Your heart aches as you see Gracie, a young girl with wide eyes – who doesn’t know what is happening, but knows that it is not right.
The book is undeniably dark, yet offers light in the most some of the smallest, everyday places. The characters find solace in friendships, sometimes current and full of laughter. Other times the friendships are past their prime, yet highlight how ties to the past can be a source of comfort even when nowadays the catchups feel more like a duty than a pleasure. Memories of everyday events and passages of poetry offer peace to the characters. The novel teaches that in even the hardest of times it is possible to find small spaces to escape.
Kerensa is not only a talented writer, she is a creative poet too. The novel is punctuated with passages of poetry that the characters read and reminisce about. As the subject is quite dark, the poetry could be seen as light relief, but it is in no way ‘fluff’ that only serves as a distraction. The verses could easily stand alone in their own right.
In a way, this book is as much about learning to find peace where you can. The world, as we’ve seen recently, can be harsh. It can be hard, hurtful and illogical but by looking at the smaller details it is possible to still find hope.
To misquote Dumbledore, this book reminds us – in the hardest hitting way – that it is possible to find peace even in the darkest of times, if only we remember to turn on the light.