The epic new love story from master storyteller Sebastian Faulks, and his most powerful novel since Birdsong.
1914: Young Anton Heideck has arrived in Vienna, eager to make his name as a journalist. While working part-time as a private tutor, he encounters Delphine, a woman who mixes startling candour with deep reserve. Entranced by the light of first love, Anton feels blessed. Until his country declares war on hers.
1927: For Lena, life with a drunken mother in a small town has been impoverished and cold. She is convinced she can amount to nothing until a young lawyer, Rudolf Plischke, spirits her away to Vienna. But the capital proves unforgiving. Lena leaves her metropolitan dream behind to take a menial job at the snow-bound sanatorium, the Schloss Seeblick.
1933: Still struggling to come to terms with the loss of so many friends on the Eastern Front, Anton, now an established writer, is commissioned by a magazine to visit the mysterious Schloss Seeblick. In this place of healing, on the banks of a silvery lake, where the depths of human suffering and the chances of redemption are explored, two people will see each other as if for the first time.
In 2005, Sebastian Faulks published Human Traces, an ambitious novel about two 19th century psychiatrists, that is set all over the world, including a Schloss Seeblick sanitorium in Austria. Now, sixteen years later, Faulks returns with book two in his Austrian trilogy, although it can be read as a standalone. Again, Schloss Seeblick and Vienna are the central settings for Snow Country. I lived in Vienna and, pre-pandemic, returned there regularly. Spending the weekend immersed in Faulks’ elegant, shimmering prose, and his vivid, detailed descriptions of Vienna’s coffee houses, opera houses, and cobbled lanes was armchair travel at its most sublime. Faulks sweeps the reader across Europe, from Austria to Paris and Moscow, as it recovers from one war and hides its face from the coming of another.
Snow Country is a novel of exquisite yearnings, dreams of youth, and the sanctity of hope. Following the intwined lives of Anton, Lena, and Rudolf, it exquisitely encapsulates both the broader historical events and the personal struggles and humanity of each of the protagonists. At its essence, it is a love story, slowly and profoundly told. This is a remarkable novel, a work of timeless resonance. I’m in awe of Faulks’ brilliance. Snow Country is an utterly engrossing triumph.