Amy Snow

Amy Snow

Title: Amy Snow 

Author: Tracy Rees 

Review by Claire Chambers

I adore historical fiction. Give me a novel packed full of corsets, rustling dresses, secrets whispered in corners and refined manners and I can easily imagine a world from years ago. For this reason, I was keen to read Amy Snow when I came across Tracy Rees’ debut novel.

Amy Snow follows the titular character after she is abandoned as a baby and taken in at the nearby Hatville Court, home of the wealthy Vennaway family. She receives cold treatment and is resented by the inhabitants of the house, with daughter of the family Aurelia as her only supporter. However, when Aurelia passes away, Amy, now aged seventeen, has to learn to make her own way in the world. Aurelia leaves her a series of letters she has written, which leads Amy into undertaking a journey of exploration bringing her into contact with many different people and enabling her to be independent.

The book follows the protagonist as she travels from Richmond through to Bath, following the trail which Aurelia has set out for her on a scavenger hunt for clues. We encounter the people she meets and the experiences she has in encountering the outside world for the first time. Rees skilfully depicts the disdain shown to women of Amy’s origins and the difficulties nineteenth century women encountered in trying to be liberated. Rees tries her best to emulate the style of Bildungsroman writers at the time, which is why initially things the characters say may come across as slightly twee. However, even though this mawkishness rang hollow at first, any qualms about this were overcome by the likeable main character and the well-written story that sucks the reader in.

Female friendship

Alongside the tweeness, one of the other downsides to the novel is that Aurelia comes across as too much of a romantic heroine to my taste – she was almost one-dimensional. She is described as very beautiful, kind, clever and high-spirited. However, as the novel progresses, it becomes clear that she needs to be written this way, to stand out as a foil against the other characters and in order to make Amy’s loss of her all the more painful. The book provides a depiction of a powerful female friendship, in which the two friends seem genuinely devoted to each other.

Amy herself is an excellent character, being strong, smart and resourceful. When given the opportunity to travel throughout the world on her own, she shows a determined instinct for survival and an ability to make friends. She is placed at a contrast to the upper class characters in the book, who attempt to bring Amy back down. Therefore the book tells an eighteenth century tale from a twenty first century angle. Other well-crafted characters include the tart-tongued Mrs. Riverhurst, who Amy stays with in Bath.

One of the main pulls of the novel is the untold back stories of the characters, which suggests the uncovering of secrets. Where does Amy come from? Why was she abandoned? And why do the Vennaway family despise her? Rees writing style does make you genuinely care enough for the characters that the reader wants to find out the answers and this is what carried me through to read to the end. Rees does a good job in tying up the loose ends of the plot and offers up a satisfying conclusion, as well as providing starting revelations about Aurelia.

Amy Snow is a compelling, intriguing story, which overcomes any drawbacks it may have to carry the reader through the tale. Rees writes with a sense of warmth and her novel is very enjoyable. Amy Snow shows that a good tale, well-told, entices the reader to the finish line.

Review by Claire Chambers

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