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The Snow Queen: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Michael Cunningham
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (150 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A darkly luminous new novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours

Michael Cunningham's luminous novel begins with a vision. It's November 2004. Barrett Meeks, having lost love yet again, is walking through Central Park when he is inspired to look up at the sky; there he sees a pale, translucent light that seems to regard him in a distinctly godlike way. Barrett doesn't believe in visions--or in God--but he can't deny what he's seen.
At the same time, in the not-quite-gentrified Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, Tyler, Barrett's older brother, a struggling musician, is trying--and failing--to write a wedding song for Beth, his wife-to-be, who is seriously ill. Tyler is determined to write a song that will be not merely a sentimental ballad but an enduring expression of love.
Barrett, haunted by the light, turns unexpectedly to religion. Tyler grows increasingly convinced that only drugs can release his creative powers. Beth tries to face mortality with as much courage as she can summon.
Cunningham follows the Meeks brothers as each travels down a different path in his search for transcendence. In subtle, lucid prose, he demonstrates a profound empathy for his conflicted characters and a singular understanding of what lies at the core of the human soul.
The Snow Queen, beautiful and heartbreaking, comic and tragic, proves again that Cunningham is one of the great novelists of his generation.



Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Like By Nightfall (2010), Cunningham’s elegant and haunting new novel examines the complex dynamics among a couple and a brother. In this configuration, Barrett Meeks, a poetically minded man in his late thirties who has just been dumped by his most recent boyfriend via text message, shares a Brooklyn apartment with Tyler, his older musician-bartender brother, and Beth, Tyler’s great love. Beth and Barrett work in Liz’s vintage shop. She’s 52; her current lover, Andrew, is 28. Beth is undergoing full-throttle treatment for cancer. Tyler is struggling to write the perfect love song for their wedding, and breaking his promise not to do drugs. Barrett, long afflicted by his flitting interest in everything, remains in an altered state after seeing a strangely animated “celestial light” over dark and snowy Central Park. As his characters try to reconcile exalted dreams and crushing reality, Cunningham orchestrates intensifying inner monologues addressing such ephemeral yet essential aspects of life as shifting perspectives, tides of desire and fear, “rampancy” versus “languidness,” and revelation and receptivity. Tender, funny, and sorrowful, Cunningham’s beautiful novel is as radiant and shimmering as Barrett’s mysterious light in the sky, gently illuminating the gossamer web of memories, feelings, and hopes that mysteriously connect us to each other as the planet spins its way round and round the sun. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Pulitzer Prize–winning Cunningham will tour with this resplendent novel in sync with national advertising and extensive online promotion. --Donna Seaman

Review

Arguably Mr. Cunningham's most original and emotionally piercing book to date. (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)

Michael Cunningham's best novel in more than a decade. (Megan O'Grady, Vogue)

At its best, the novel is Cunningham in his sweet spot, compassionate, emotionally exhilarating, devilishly fun. (Maria Russo, The New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice))

That voice, Cunningham's inimitable style, is the real miracle of The Snow Queen.... Remarkable. (Ron Charles, The Washington Post)

The miraculous returns to earth in sentences so gorgeous that we can barely feel the wheels touch down.... This is a masterful performance. (John Freeman, The Boston Globe)

Michael Cunningham writes some of the most beautiful prose in contemporary American fiction, and his gorgeous way with words is on full display in his new novel, The Snow Queen . . . The author is tender with his characters even when they're obnoxious or dumb. And he's particularly tender with Tyler, a self-deluding drug addict who is also that quintessential Cunningham protagonist, the artist struggling with his muse. As in his Pulitzer prize-winner, The Hours, Cunningham writes with specificity and intimate knowledge about the desire 'to make something … marvelous, something miraculous.' Failure is not a threat inevitably overcome; it happens. The wedding song Tyler composes for Beth is, he knows, 'more sentimental than searing.' His wincing analysis of the song's weaknesses gives a much truer portrait of the artistic process than the gauzy romanticism we usually get. Art is Cunningham's deepest faith, the Big Subject he approaches with a passion and conviction . . . There aren't any final answers in Cunningham's hauntingly inconclusive novel, which fittingly enough, closes with a question. (Wendy Smith, The Daily Beast)

Cunningham weaves an ode to the immortal city of New York and its artistic souls and lost citizens. His books remind us that the mythologies we imagine about our lives stem from seemingly ordinary moments and seemingly ordinary people . . . With elegant prose that peeks into the most private thoughts of his characters, Cunningham challenges the reader to imagine a pervasive, indifferent god--if any god even exists. (Allie Ghaman, The Washington Post)

Like By Nightfall (2010), Cunningham's elegant and haunting new novel examines the complex dynamics among a couple and a brother. In this configuration, Barrett Meeks, a poetically minded man in his late thirties who has just been dumped by his most recent boyfriend via text message, shares a Brooklyn apartment with Tyler, his older musician-bartender brother, and Beth, Tyler's great love. Beth and Barrett work in Liz's vintage shop. She's 52; her current lover, Andrew, is 28. Beth is undergoing full-throttle treatment for cancer. Tyler is struggling to write the perfect love song for their wedding, and breaking his promise not to do drugs. Barrett, long afflicted by his flitting interest in everything, remains in an altered state after seeing a strangely animated "celestial light' over dark and snowy Central Park. As his characters try to reconcile exalted dreams and crushing reality, Cunningham orchestrates intensifying inner monologues addressing such ephemeral yet essential aspects of life as shifting perspectives, tides of desire and fear, 'rampancy' versus 'languidness,' and revelation and receptivity. Tender, funny, and sorrowful, Cunningham's beautiful novel is as radiant and shimmering as Barrett's mysterious light in the sky, gently illuminating the gossamer web of memories, feelings, and hopes that mysteriously connect us to each other as the planet spins its way round and round the sun. (Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review))

The omniscience that runs throughout the novel's narration allows readers to not only glimpse, but take deep and heart-wrenching looks into the lives of these very tangible characters . . . Truths that other characters are ignorant to, moments that other characters are blind to, become welcome knowledge for readers in Cunningham's twisted and often disparaging world. Cunningham weaves whispers of spirituality, questions of mortality, themes of family and lessons on life's finer, more subtle pleasures. A work infused with passion, hatred, beauty and disgust, I found myself hard pressed to put the book down. (Chicagoist)

Michael Cunningham is known for his lyric and evocative language, and his sixth novel, The Snow Queen, is no exception . . . An emotionally charged story, simply told, about four people who come to defy that term 'middle age.' (Alex Gilvarry, New Orleans Public Radio)

Michael Cunningham is among America's most gifted writers: graceful, delicately hued, wise. (Earl Pike, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland))

Some books I don't want to read on my iPad. I want to go to a bookstore, buy a hardcover and slowly savor every brand-new page, preferably in a hot bath with a serious box of chocolates at my side. One such book is The Snow Queen . . . The narrative is almost amorphous, constructed of seemingly random scenes, all of which are situations set on the brink of something -- a presidential election, New Year's Eve, any one of the characters' hopes about to be realized or shattered. And the sense they make together is one of almost understanding one's life, or just about grasping the meaning of the universe, or practically but not quite realizing why we care about our friends and lovers. Or why we don't. In the end there's no doubt a story has been told and it's one that can easily stay with its readers for the rest of their lives. But it would be a fool's errand to try to go back to connect all the dots. It's like our own lives, full of seemingly pointless moments that add up to something that matters, a vision realized, perhaps, even if we never quite get to the bottom of what it all means . . . by reading his work, he reminds us that we are not alone in our desires, despair and dreams, and in our quests to find meaning in our lives together. (Rob Phelps, Wicked Local)

The Snow Queen is inspired by classic fairytales, though Cunningham's sensibilities skew in a thoroughly modern (even post-modern) direction, resulting in a very beautiful hodgepodge . . . The lush writing is gorgeous throughout . . . At a technical level The Snow Queen is extraordinary. (Ed Power The Irish Independent)

The Snow Queen wears its contemporaneity lightly, because the novel really concerns itself with eternal themes: the quest for love, the unfairness and inevitability of death and the hope of a meaningful life . . . [A] thoughtful, intimate novel. (Martha T. Moore USA Today)

The attention to the quotidian creates the best parts of the book. In the quiet moments between the chaos of illness and new relationships, Cunningham gives the characters time to slow down and think. (Lindsay VanAsdalan The City Paper (Baltimore))

Product Details

  • File Size: 489 KB
  • Print Length: 273 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0007557671
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (May 6, 2014)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00GL442SU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,958 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
(150)
3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 49 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Why You Read Cunningham May 18, 2014
Format:Hardcover
After reading all of Michael Cunningham's books, starting with the miraculous "The Hours" to today, one thing is very clear. He loves commas. Commas, commas, commas, extending his sentences, so that one sentence can spin, and re-spin, in several different directions, sometimes individually, sometimes all at once, and then, so adroitly, coming back to the point of origin, and somehow, being the same and slightly different than when you first started reading these comma-laden sentences.

Surely, I jest. I am a Michael Cunningham fan. I have come to realize, after devouring his latest work "The Snow Queen", that I read him, not for incredibly compelling storytelling, but for his prose. He commands the language with an ease and deft that makes reading him, and his complex sentences, seem like little reading journeys. He paints New York City unlike any other author I can think of, making the city alive and recent. His gift in the technical skill of writing is not matched by his storytelling abilities.

The Snow Queen is about two brothers. Barrett, a gay sales clerk, sees a vision in Central Park one evening that seems to challenge his understandings about life. Tyler, a rock star wannabe, struggles with the current political scene and the health of his girlfriend Beth, who is fighting cancer. Cunningham, thankfully and successfully, manages to constrain the story to these two, and a few people in their immediate orbit. However, in the course of the story, where things happen to the characters, you are left wondering, by the end of the story, what this was truly all about.

For one thing, I didn't buy Tyler's political rantings through the book. They seemed incredibly misplaced and took me out of the story, or at least his character.
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, true… and a little boring May 10, 2014
Format:Hardcover
Michael Cunningham writes beautifully, there is no question about that. Almost every page of his new novel reads as elegantly as it looks on the page. His prose is lucid and refined, without any trace of over-elaboration; indeed, he has an endearing habit of making parenthetical remarks to himself in descriptive passages (such as "face it" or "remember that?") that gives a pleasantly informal air to the whole. You may not know these people, but feel you might, and know that if you did happen to meet you would be welcomed into their circle.

And the characters and their lives are also real: two forty-something brothers sharing an apartment in Brooklyn with the girlfriend of one of them. Barrett, the younger, is gay and works in a vintage store in Manhattan; on the way home one night, he sees a mysterious aqua light appear in the sky over Central Park, a miracle that he keeps to himself at first, but that turns him towards a kind of religion. Tyler, his older brother, is chasing his own miracle; a musician, he is still hoping for a breakthrough as a song-writer, and takes drugs to transport him to the necessary nirvana. Meanwhile, he is going ahead with his wedding to Beth (co-owner of the store where Tyler works), even though she is in the fourth stage of cancer.

I don't really remember the Hans Andersen story of the same title that Cunningham is apparently reworking here, nor am I sure of its essential point. Certainly, there is a lot of snow and ice imagery, literal and otherwise, and I think I see a common theme of two people (though by no means children here) living close together in an urban setting, until each finds a way to unlock something essential that had been frozen within them.
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38 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cunningham’s most emotionally strong book May 2, 2014
Format:Audible Audio Edition
‘The Snow Queen’ written by Michael Cunningham, a previous Pulitzer Prize winner, a story in which are mixed humor and tragedy, emotions and fairy tale beauty, is a novel that confirms Cunningham status as one of the best storytellers of today's generation.

The author didn’t accidentally chose a name for his story, because just like in a children tale which bears the same name he manages to show how love can do everything, even melt the heart that seems forever frozen.

Same as was the case with previous Cunningham’s works, he again uses three main characters and their stories and interweaves them into a single story. This time these are two brothers – Barrett and Tyler, and Tyler’s ill girlfriend, who has recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Barrett is near his forties; he works in clothing store and he broke up recently with his brother Tyler, a drug addict. Tyler is a musician who never managed to sell anything, his life becoming even more miserable after learning that his girlfriend is dying.

The reader will find out that the two brothers became close after the tragic death of their mother, and that despite their age, actually both of them have never found themselves, thus figuratively speaking about one lost generation that exists today, just struggling to survive, without any specific purpose in life despite their talents. Around these three characters the author will build a story in which interweaves psychology, humor and tragedy of life - people who are equally friends and lovers, colleagues and family.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Such beautiful prose---but where is the story?
I love Michael's writing and have read all his books except one. I was again enamored with his prose but there really wasn't a storyline that held my interest, which was quite... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Joe G
4.0 out of 5 stars Just a Good book from a Great author.
I would give this one 3 1/2 stars, but Amazon won't let me. I love Cunningham's writing style and enjoyed this read, but it was not my favorite as it felt like a rather thin plot. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Marcello S.
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
didn't really have anything much going on. felt unsatisfied. Story just kind of ended
Published 2 months ago by Nichole Heesh
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fun Book
A book with interesting, albeit quirky, characters. Fun to read and get involved with.
Published 2 months ago by Gary Soldow
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Thank you .
Arrived!
Published 2 months ago by Kelley Clark
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh my, this book was so hard to read ...
Oh my, this book was so hard to read. In fact, I gave up halfway in. I did not care what happened to the characters, and had no idea where the book may be going. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Sherri Bosely
3.0 out of 5 stars nuance and sensation beautifully, however I never seemed to connect...
poetically rendered prose that captures moments, nuance and sensation beautifully, however I never seemed to connect enough with the story or characters.
Published 3 months ago by Linda M. Stephens
3.0 out of 5 stars “(W)ho DOESN'T prefer fantasies to outcomes?” (p. 251)
Not too many years ago, I read THE HOURS – then saw, not too many months later, the film. I remember feeling depressed after I’d finished each. Why? Read more
Published 3 months ago by R. Russell Bittner
3.0 out of 5 stars and Barrett is preoccupied with the physically beautiful Andrew -...
Cunningham is best-known for a book that many more people have heard of than read: The Hours, which was made into a film starring Nicole Kidman's prosthetic nose. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Holly
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Loved the book. Easy read
Published 4 months ago by kidbell
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More About the Author

Michael Cunningham is the author of the novels A Home at the End of the World, Flesh and Blood, The Hours (winner of the Pen/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize), and Specimen Days. He lives in New York.

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