Book review: Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au

Melbourne writer, Jessica Au’s novella Cold Enough for Snow reads like a meditation. The narrator and her mother, originally from rural China, go to Japan on holidays during the typhoon season. Their story unfolds in a dreamlike narrative brimming with beautiful imagery as they travel.

The best we could do in this life was to pass through it, like smoke through the branches, suffering, until we either reached a state of nothingness, or else suffered elsewhere. She spoke about other tenets, of goodness and giving, the accumulation of kindness like a trove of wealth. She was looking at me then, and I knew that she wanted me to be with her on this, to follow her, but to my shame I found that I could not and worse, that I could not even pretend. I instead I looked at my watch and said that visiting hours were almost over, and that we should probably go

Cold enough for Snow is told from the daughters first person perspective as she reminisces about events from her life and she and her mother move through the landscape taking in galleries and shops, eating and talking. It is a story told in glimpses that drift off on the wind – about a mother and daughter, about connection and separation.

They had seemed to me then, as now, like paintings about time. It felt like the artist was looking at the field with two gazes. The first was the gaze of youth, awakening to a dawn of pink light on the grass and looking with possibility on everything, the work he had done just the day before, the work he had still to do in the future. The second was the gaze of an older man, perhaps older than Monet had been when he painted them, that was looking at the same view, and remembering these earlier feelings and trying to recapture them, only he was unable to do so without infusing it with his own sense of inevitability. Looking at them, I felt a little like I felt sometimes after reading a certain book, or hearing a fragment of a certain song.

May you go gently into the new year and 2023 be kind to you.

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