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Book review: Cold Enough For Snow, Jessica Au

An innovative contemplation of connection, separation, and epistemic performativity.

Jessica Au’s second book, Cold Enough for Snow, is circular and ineffable; not long, but deep. Inaugural winner of The Novel Prize, this story of connection, separation, and re-traced steps holds echoes of humans existing in time, space, and memory. Au’s writing is intertextual, subtextual, and sharply understated, reminding readers that it is within the seemingly insignificant details of life that meaning exists, and that we can never know ahead of time which moments will hold the most weight. 

A woman and her mother spend time together in Japan, where they eat, drink, shop, talk, and contemplate works of art. This coming-together and pulling-apart might be an effort to find authenticity, or it might be a symptom of the impossibility of truly knowing another person’s perspective. Childhood memories and family stories propel the characters forward (or perhaps backwards?) towards the comfort of safe familiarity. 

Using tense as a fluid frame, Au’s words evoke imaginings and memories, speaking of how human lives are lived in minds that move fluidly through moments in time. She constructs layers of imagery using echoes and projections; her characters distort reality in subconscious efforts to see life as they imagine it to be. Increasingly thin membranes between memory and moment reflect the fragility of solid chronology within the book itself, while the interior world of the narrator brings personality and texture to this unusual story. 

Au’s book contains silence like paintings hold negative space. Language, art and culture exist in this world both as a means of connection, and as a barrier to true comprehension. Translations of language between Au’s characters are not unlike translations of language between cultures. But life, unlike art, can never deal in absolutes, and there is no one true interpretation of anything.

Not least here, where art and literature contain worlds within worlds, worlds as they could be, and worlds as they are seen. 

Read: Reviewer versus book publisher

Cold Enough for Snow is a sensory contemplation of knowledge, performativity, and the integral role of the present in shaping one’s past. This book will resonate with solitary bonsai, daughters of mothers, and humans floating backwards through the stories of their lives. 

Cold Enough For Snow by Jessica Au 
Publisher: Giramondo 
ISBN: 9781925818925 
Format: Paperback 
Pages: 108 pp
Publication date: February 2022 
RRP: $24.95

Nanci Nott is an Australian writer who believes in dismantling traditional pedagogy in parenting and education, for the purpose of raising freethinking, compassionate, world-changers.