We've got a really interesting review for you today, from an indie who are new to the Indie Book Network, Fum d'Estampa Press. London Under Snow is published tomorrow and you can get tickets for the launch event here. .
In February 2009, London was buried under a deep snowfall, and the city ground to a halt.
This extraordinary short story collection takes its name from an experience of that event,
recounted in the opening story. First published that year in the original Catalan, it's now
been beautifully translated into English by Douglas Suttle and produced by Fum
D'Estampa Press, from whom I was lucky enough to receive a copy.
I must confess, it took me longer to read this book than I would normally expect a
collection of six short stories to take. This certainly is not to say that I did not enjoy reading
it, but I did find it deep and thought provoking. Whilst I don't want to belabour a metaphor, I
found it impossible when reading it not to feel as if I were being buried under an ever-
increasing drift of snow. The stories in this book are fragments; glimpses into moments of
lives, possibly autobiographical, possibly not, of characters confronting moments from their
pasts. They vary in tone from the angry, dark and visceral to the incredibly touching and
delicate. The voices of the stories are at one moment unemotional and cold, and the next
completely compassionate. Sometimes they were hard to read for the lack of apparent
emotion, but then the next moment you would be hit with something so empathetic that the
contrast knock you for six. There is grief and loss throughout, but only occasionally is it
allowed to become mourning. This can jar, but it makes those moments of greater impact.
They are meditations on memory, and the importance of the minutia of life, on how we
come to be the people we are. A single event in a single day will spark the unfolding of a
memory long-neglected; or a never-to-be-forgotten memory has taken over a long-
neglected life. In the story 'We, too, are Expecting', a husband watches his wife knit a scarf
and tell their daughter a story as she waits to be the first to see the snow one winter
“The man took the plates off the table, leaving them to soak in the kitchen sink and shook the
tablecloth out on the balcony before sitting back down to read at table. Still no snow. He looked up
at his wife compassionately (not tenderly, although the two are almost always linked) and watched
how she moved her knitting needles while, at the same time, silently moving her lips as if reading
under her breath. She couldn't stay still: it was as if she was praying. As if her lips were mouthing
the greater meaning of her words. A silent prayer to be heard only by God with his ever-open ears
and heart of eternal compassion. She muttered again; knitted and muttered.”
Time slips through the monotony of routine; the reader is hypnotised by the twice-clearing
of dinner things off the the table, the slipping of the story told by the woman tells the story
we read. What meaning does time have when reality or the present world is not wanted? It
will stay with me for a long time.
It's a book of layers, where the stories build each upon the last until the final lyrical, life-
affirming, and extraordinarily moving chapter.
You can order London Under Snow directly from the publishers here.