Cover image for The big snow
The big snow
Park, David, 1953-
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Bloomsbury, 2002.
Physical Description:
278 pages ; 22 cm
Set in Northern Ireland in 1963, this is the story of a time muffled and made claustrophobic by unprecedented snowfalls. A series of characters fall in love, commit indiscretions and one of them, a young woman, is murdered in the pure white snow.
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Shaken free from the normal patterns of their lives by a catastrophic blizzard, the intimate desires of a Northern Irish community are thrown into sharp relief as they experience love, death, and finally, murder.

In a house with windows flung defiantly wide, a wife dies before her husband can make his confession. Her coffin is pulled to the church on a sledge by Peter, a young man engulfed by his first feelings of love for an older, unattainable woman. Elsewhere, an old woman searches desperately for a wedding dress in her dream of love. When the electricity fails, a lonely headmaster is forced to close his school and in shadowy candlelight he is tempted into indiscretion. Meanwhile, in the very heart of the city, the purity of snow is tainted by the murder of a young woman, and as one man begins to unravel the dark secrets of the city, he knows he is in race against time-to find the murderer before the snow melts.

David Park peers into the souls of his characters with an insight and compassion that makes this flawed slice of humanity somehow glorious. He is a writer of rare dignity and talent.

Author Notes

David Park is the author of three novels and a volume of short stories. He was the winner of the Authors' Club First Novel Award, the Bass Ireland Arts Award for Literature and a twice winner of the University of Ulster's McCrea Literary Award. He lives in County Down, Northern Ireland with his wife and two children.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Four short stories and a novella, set during the 1960s in the north of Ireland in the midst of a blinding blizzard, are linked by the theme of love. In «The Light of the World,» a husband is haunted by his memories of infidelity as his wife lays dying; «Snow Trails» follows a student's infatuation with a wealthy woman and her rarefied world; an old woman buys a wedding dress and slips into madness in «The Wedding Dress»; and a deeply lonely schoolmaster forges an unexpected connection in «Against the Cold.» In the moving title story, a new detective doggedly searches for the murderer of a beautiful woman, somehow convinced that his investigation will lead him to love. In setting these explorations of passionate human emotions against the austerely beautiful, snow-covered landscape, Park throws his themes into sharp relief. Skillfully depicting how the snow has transformed the neighborhood into something only partly recognizable and temporarily released people from the predictable, Park uses the imagery of his setting in every conceivable fashion and to powerful effect. Masterful fiction. Joanne Wilkinson.

Publisher's Weekly Review

The central conceit of this acclaimed Irish author's poignant and compelling American debut is a snowstorm that shuts down Northern Ireland. A series of interlocking short stories about various smalltown characters precedes a taut, riveting urban murder-mystery involving a prostitute and a city councilman. The book starts on a wistful note as schoolteacher Martin Stevenson prepares for the death of his wife from a terminal illness that is wicking away her beauty and energy. From there, Park moves to a precocious young man's attraction to an older woman when the storm forces him and his father to help her husband after a minor auto accident. Other short interludes include a woman's efforts to buy a wedding dress for her daughter, and an encounter involving a prudish principal who winds up sleeping with one of his teachers. Park saves the best for last, when the mysterious death of a prostitute sparks a young detective named Swift to defy his boss and pursue a prominent councilman in the title novella. Park is a superb writer who focuses on interiority in the early stories, briefly but sharply bringing his characters to life with compassion and verve as they grapple with their passions and shortcomings. The impeccable plotting in the murder mystery is just as noteworthy, as Park focuses on Swift's head butting with his boss to increase the tension for the final pursuit. Structurally, the story line poses challenges, but the author incorporates a stunning beauty and a sense of mystery into his prose that makes it smooth and seamless. (June) Forecast: The unconventional structure of this work makes it a tough sell, but the snowstorm conceit (and the lovely jacket image of a snowstorm) lend it a quiet charm. Park's story he is an Ulster schoolteacher who gave up writing for 10 years in discouragement and then decided to try his hand at it once more is as low-key and appealing as the book itself. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved