Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au has won the Novel Prize. The Novel Prize is a new, biennial award for a book-length, unpublished work of literary fiction written in English by writers around the world. It was launched last spring to reward novels that “explore and expand the possibilities of the form, and are innovative and imaginative in style”.
Run by London-based Fitzcarraldo Editions, Australian press Giramondo and New York’s New Directions, as well as the cash prize, the winner gets to be published simultaneously by the three publishers in their respective territories, in the UK and Ireland, in Australia and New Zealand, and in North America. So, yes, it is a big deal.
I read Cold Enough for Snow in a sitting; I loved how poetic it is, and Tokyo as the setting is always gorgeous. A mother and daughter visit Tokyo during a rainy season. They walk around the city, take the trains, visit museums and galleries, eat tasty meals in restaurants. And at the same time, they talk about the past, their memories, family, the things they see at the shops, art, literature and many more things. But you can sense that even though they are talking, there are many questions that aren’t asked.
The narration, although beautiful, is complicated; you find yourself reading about the daughter’s memories from when she was a student and then back to reading about her visit to Tokyo with her mother. But this is far from bothersome; it even adds a lot to the story.
Cold Enough for Snow made me think hard about my relationship with my mother. And after I finished the book, I realised that I wanted to spend more time with her and get to know her better. Do I really know her? Does she know me? Can we really know our parents? But the important question is, do I want to know her? Do you?
Cold Enough for Snow
A mother and daughter travel from abroad to meet in Tokyo: they walk along the canals through the autumn evenings, escape the typhoon rains, share meals in small cafes and restaurants, and visit galleries to see some of the city’s most radical modern art. All the while, they talk: about the weather, horoscopes, clothes, and objects, about family, distance, and memory. But uncertainties abound.
Who is really speaking here – is it only the daughter? And what is the real reason behind this elliptical, perhaps even spectral journey? At once a careful reckoning and an elegy, Cold Enough for Snow questions whether any of us speak a common language, which dimensions can contain love, and what claim we have to truly know another’s inner world.
Selected from more than 1,500 entries, Cold Enough for Snow won the Novel Prize, a new, biennial award offered by Fitzcarraldo Editions, New Directions (US) and Giramondo (Australia), for any novel written in English that explores and expands the possibilities of the form.
Rarely have I been so moved, reading a book: I love the quiet beauty of Cold Enough for Snow and how, within its calm simplicity, Jessica Au camouflages incredible power. —Edouard Louis
Jessica Au is a writer based in Melbourne, Australia. Cold Enough for Snow, her second novel, will be published by New Directions, Fitzcarraldo Editions, and Giramondo, and is already set to be translated into twelve languages.
Her first novel Cargo was published by Picador in 2011, and it was highly commended in the Kathleen Mitchell Award for a writer under 30. She is the former deputy editor of Australian literary journal Meanjin, and is currently an associate editor at digital magazine Aeon.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: