Title: The Snow-Woman
Author: Stella Gibbons
First published in 1969; republishing by Dean Street Press on 4 January 2021
Genre: Women’s Fiction
It’s the 1960s. Maude Barrington is in her seventies and lives in London with her long-time maid Millie. When Lionel, a man acquainted with Maude for over fifty years, comes over and invites her to join him on a trip to France, she’s brought face-to-face with long-suppressed emotions, sorrows and misunderstandings of her past. Lionel has brought a young and heavily pregnant woman with him. The girl goes into labor and the child is delivered on late Aunt Doreatha’s antique sofa!
As Maude reaches France, she meets people from her past; especially Frances, the woman who ‘dilly-dallied’ with Maude’s three brothers. Maude returns to London and sees Millie’s almost adopted the young woman (the one who went into labor on the antique sofa).
The Snow-Woman is Maude. The grief of losing her brothers to war and sudden demise of her parents has made Maude a bitter and cold person; hence the name ‘Snow-Woman.’ When Lionel arrives with a young woman in tow, Maude is frustrated. She wonders what an old man like Lionel has to do with a hardly-twenty-looking girl.
When the girl goes into labor, Maude packs her bag and goes to her friends house. She cannot stand chaos and/or people. In a day or two, Lionel calls Maude and invites her to join him for lunch. He then tells her about his trip to France and invites her to join. She agrees. Throughout the trip, Maude experiences bouts of nostalgia and irritation. As she reaches Charles’ place (where they are to stay), she sees Frances and loses her temper.
Frances and Maude have a history. Frances dated Maude’s three brothers and Maude holds her responsible for creating a rift between the brothers. The brothers were killed at War and fifty years later, Maude is still grieving. Maude learns a thing or two about the past during her stay at France. She and Frances patch-up. After decades, Maude decides to visit her brothers’ grave on her return journey.
As the story proceeds, we see the ‘Snow-Woman’ melting; the layers of bitterness melt away. Maude returns to London and learns Millie and the young girl (Teddie) have bonded well. There’s a small mystery regarding the young girl’s family – this comes in the second half of the story. This is where we see Maude change for good. She finally faces the demons of her past – faces the grief and the sorrow built-up for decades and finally makes peace with it.
I hadn’t read any women’s fiction written in the 60s and 70s until now. The Snow-Woman is my first and definitely not the last. Dean Street Press has republished a lot of forgotten woman authors of yesteryears, Stella Gibbons being one of them. I loved the story. This book gives out a strong message too, which we see in the form of Maude’s ‘metamorphosis’. Until one faces their past and makes peace with it, the world will always look like a bitter place…
Excellent storytelling and likable characters. Heart-warming, a tad funny and completely charming story. If you are looking for a unique and interesting story, I highly recommend you to read The Snow-Woman by Stella Gibbons.