The Snow Collectors by Tina May Hall is a 2020 novel published by Dzanc Books. This review does not contain spoilers.
With beautiful imagery and lush prose, Tina May Hall takes the reader into a world where history merges with mystery. In her 2020 novel, we follow the journey of Henna, who tries to make sense of past trauma. However, we also journey into the past lives of historical figures long gone.
That is both the charm and the horror of The Snow Collectors: The past, as we learn, is not simple and is never clear. Hall is a stylish writer, who prefers slow-burns and immersion as opposed to drastic info dumps and gore. That makes the eventual payoff more thrilling and memorable.
The Snow Collectors is a literary mystery, a historical novel and a expedition adventure. Tina May Hall’s merge of genres is fascinating, and clearly a selling point for the novel. It also helps The Snow Collectors stand out among a sea of literature.
Spanning years, and travelling from the Arctic to the dusky forbidden libraries of Montreal, The Snow Collectors is reminiscent of a painting and a poem. Even Henna’s loyal companion (with fangs!), Rembrandt, conjures Dutch pictures of a history long past.
The language is composed with elegance and beauty: not a word feels wasted, and is composed with an almost-musical grace. Reading The Snow Collectors was a splendid pleasure, because it meant spending time with an author who takes language seriously.
Tina May Hall matches her artistry with unique characterisation. Although Henna, at first, takes time to be an interesting protagonist, she intersects with interesting dynamics. The obvious one being the Gothic figure, Lady Jane. Yet Hall does not stop there. She offers sophisticated commentary on human relationships and the words that remain unsaid.
It’s intoxicating and surrealist, and is a book haunted by the ghosts of the present and past. The Snow Collectors is art, but also an arresting invitation. Like the very best mysteries of Agatha Christie, you become more interested when given information.
Tina May Hall organises her story like a director of an art gallery: she curates with power and cleverness. What you observe is pure beauty and horror. Hall’s subject matter is meaty, and is underlined with dread and anguish. Like Henna struggling to move on, and finding herself trapped among the archipelagos of ice and snow, we feel her emotions.
People have labelled The Snow Collectors as an example of climate fiction, indicative of our current societal loathing regarding the environment. Such readings are understandable, and Hall offers some commentary. However, she is subtle about it, preferring not to shoe-horn a message without grace.
Instead, like the most persuasive storytellers, she tells us a dreamlike story of melancholy. A strength of The Snow Collectors is its literary intelligence, and its understanding that the reader is just as capable of deep thought as the author. In many ways, that makes the novel even more terrifying and effective with its commentary.
I am pleased to recommend The Snow Collectors by Tina May Hall.