You might be familiar with the line, “Catch a snowflake as it falls to earth…and you’ll have snowfall wherever you go,” from the famous poem “Snowflake” by Christina Rossetti. If you are, then you know that it’s not only the beauty of snow that makes it special, but also the drama that often accompanies it. Hailstorms, blizzards, and other dramatic weather conditions can make for some memorable moments on a ski holiday. It’s no wonder that the winter sports entertainment world is such a popular place to be at this time of year. And although the winter sports season is over, the winter weather conditions can still captivate anyone’s imagination.
If you’re a fan of the English Romantic movement, then you might consider the poetry and prose of Robert Pattinson. The son of actor Keith and author Diana, he was born in London and raised in the Lake District. He is known for his critically acclaimed and bestselling memoirs, Bel Ami (2002) and Lost Boys (2005), which were made into films of the same name. Additionally, he wrote and directed the 2014 film The Rover, which premiered at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival and stars Oscar winner Robert Redford.
Pattinson is also the author of the highly anticipated new book, Snow Storm. The collection of short stories is a follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2016 volume, Buried Giant, and was recently published in the U.S. by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. It was released in U.K. on October 10, 2019 and in Ireland on October 11, 2019 by Scribe Publications.
What Is “Snow Storm”?: An Overview
The stories in Snow Storm are, for the most part, set in and around Lake District in England. They were originally published from 2015 to 2019 in sundry literary magazines such as the New Statesman, the London Review of Books, Standpoint, and the Yorkshire Post. Some of the material was also broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra as “The Lost Boys of Writing,” and the entire collection has been optioned for television by HBO.
The collection opens with “The Golden Door,” a story about a young boy whose beloved pet spider, Linnet, is swept up by a snowstorm and dies in his arms. The boy is devastated, but his grief is put in perspective when he learns that Linnet had been sick for a long time and that the storm was probably responsible for her untimely death. The ensuing discussion between the boy and his grief-stricken father, which centers on whether or not Linnet’s death was actually a good thing, is both moving and thought-provoking.
The next story, “Holloway Road,” is about a man whose wife dies in a car accident on a snowy day. The man spends the rest of his life in mourning and, eventually, goes on to live with his son. Like Linnet’s death in “The Golden Door,” the accident in “Holloway Road” is also viewed by some as a good thing, as the man’s son grows up to be a kind and generous person, much like his father. His father sees this as a challenge to his authority, however, and forbids the man to see or speak to his son for the remainder of his life, which, in turn, creates a huge rift between the two men.
Other tales include “The Blue Train,” about an English family that travels to Russia for the express purpose of burying an heir who has committed suicide. The decision to go to such great lengths is motivated in part by the family’s desire to keep the money that would have gone to the deceased man. Once in Russia, however, the family begins to wonder if going through with the plan was a good idea. Was the heir worth all the trouble? What would happen once they returned home? These are all questions that the reader is encouraged to ask themselves as they consider the stories’ dark undercurrents.
The collection closes with two intertwined stories that are set in New York City. Like many of Pattinson’s other works, Snow Storm is filled with characters who grapple with the traumas of life, often with darker undertones. In the first story, “Drowned World,” an Australian tourist buys a fake Rolex at a street market in Manhattan. He pays a hefty sum for the fake timepiece, but the thrill of owning something authentic is more than worth it to him. He has bought his ticket to paradise, as he leaves the store, thinking that he has escaped the harsh Australian winter. Little does he know that the paradise he seeks is New York City, which is in the midst of a blizzard. What he finds there is not the joyous experience that he was expecting. Instead, the city seems to be celebrating the horrific events that befell the man, including the blizzard conditions that nearly claimed his life.
The story concludes with a haunting image: the Australian man, whose fake Rolex has stopped working, treading through the snow, wearing a T-shirt that says “I ♥ New York.” Is this a wry reference to the chaos that is the American metropolis, or just the author’s way of expressing his adoration for his adopted home?
Why Is This Author (or These Authors) Special?
Pattinson’s previous book, Buried Giant, which was also made into a feature film, was based on the lives of British Romantic poets William Blake and Edwin Arnold. It was described by critics as ‘‘an enthralling love letter to literary London,” which captures the essence of the city and its inhabitants. Even before the release of the novel, Blake’s work had begun to appear in unexpected places, including animated feature films. In fact, two short films based on Blake’s work were included in the soundtrack for Buried Giant, which was released in 2017. It’s likely that many of the novel’s readers were not even aware of the films’ existence until after they had read the book.
Now, with Snow Storm, we have a chance to explore the works of one of England’s most beloved and talented novelists. If you’re unfamiliar, now might be a good time to introduce yourself to Robert Pattinson’s work. There is plenty to choose from, so you’re sure to find something that will appeal to you.