Christopher Nicholson’s Among the Summer Snows


With parts of the UK embroiled (or just broiling!) in a heatwave, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s unfeasible that snow could still be present anywhere in the country. But all you have to do is look north, to the Scottish Highlands, and you will find that the cool, white stuff manages to hang on all year round, some in snowbeds as big as icebergs!

To show us this phenomenon, Christopher Nicholson has taken pilgrimage to the Highlands, consequently giving us the exquisite Among the Summer Snows.

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Ben Nevis observatory gully

In the words of Dr Paul Evans (author of Field Notes from the Edge):

Summer snow is a miracle,” writes Christopher Nicholson, “a piece of out-of-season magic: to see it is one thing, to make physical contact with it is another.” Through Nicholson’s pilgrimage into the Scottish Highlands to find fragments of snow that have persisted against the odds, we make contact with dwellings of the gods. In those inhabiting summer snows, we recognise their “disgruntled expression” as they “squat in silent, blue trances.” Whether there’s any connection between these gods of temporary residence and Nicholson’s own meditations on mortality is an interesting speculation, but we find him at odds with the world. He is sensitive to criticism ranged against his innate romanticism because of terrible things happening in the world we all bear some responsibility for. But like the pain in his foot he endures, he refuses to give up on love, and his stubborn persistence is like that of the snow itself: an act of defiance. 

Those of us who have seen and felt snow in the summer will recognise this sentiment. Just last summer, I was in Breckenridge, Colorado, where the mountains soar 4000 metres high. I went from sweltering in 33-degree heat while walking the town streets to having a snowball fight while wearing shorts and sandals – all it took was one short gondola ride to the top of one of the town’s smaller mountains. As the midday sun blazed down, reflecting off the sea of glittering white snow all around, I felt the juxtaposition was terribly romantic. The first time I experienced snow in summer – again, in Colorado, always a favourite with my family – was 20 years ago. The image of snow high up in the Rockies, in spite of sweltering temperatures on the ground, has always stuck firmly in my mind, made so much lovelier over time.

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Aonach Mor

Nicholson is the author of The Elephant Keeper, which was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award and Encore Prize, and which the critics have called “Gentle, profound and sweet-natured” (Observer), “An absolute Gem” (Guardian) and “Intensely moving” (Boston Globe). His book Winter was described by Alison Lurie in the New York Review of Books as “one of the most dramatically convincing and moving Famous Writer Novels I have ever read” and by The New Yorker as “understated” and “tender”.

He deftly handles his subject matter in Summer Snows, offering us a meditation not just on nature, but on that which is fragile and easily lost.

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Aonach Mor (debris)

We’ll leave you with the words of the critics, so you don’t have to take our word for it:

“A beautiful book about love and loss, fragility and chance, the wide world and the near world . . . full of intense light and colour, extraordinary glimpses, moving insights and subtle humour.” – Richard Kerridge, author of Cold Blood

 “This ravishingly lovely book is about thought-snow, summer snow, flight, falling, stillness, memory, loss, mountains, Time, death, survival and everything in between. It is an intense scrutiny of minute worlds, a roaming gaze into the vastness of space, intimate, introspective and questioning.” – Keggie Carew, author of Dadland


Among the Summer Snows was published on 13 June 2017

 September Publishing

9781910463604   h/b   £14.99


Post by Sarah W.

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