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The Snow Queen: A Novel

3.04 of 5 stars 3.04  ·  rating details  ·  3,856 ratings  ·  736 reviews
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. Barr
Paperback, 272 pages
Published May 5th 2015 by Picador (first published January 1st 2014)
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Tristan It's hard to tell, but I don't think so--his goal is to understand, not to die.
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I could not and did not connect with this novel by one of my favorite contemporary writers. And the overuse of parentheticals (parentheticals everywhere) (and once a parenthetical following a parenthetical) (all much to my annoyance) was beyond distracting. Even so, stylistic quirks aside (annoying though they were) (annoyance being the overpowering effect of this slim volume), ain't much here to ponder or (in my case) enjoy.
Sigh. Does winning a Pulitzer Prize give you license to pen indulgent "literary" drivel, punctuated with showy vocabulary words and boring, navel-gazing, delusional characters who have mastered the art of the banal inner monologue? I tried very hard to get into this book, but then I remembered that life is fleeting and PRECIOUS and I could not justify wasting any more time than I already had listening to this nonsense, even if it WAS read to me by Claire Danes. In fact, the narration on the audi ...more
If The Hours is Cunningham's Virginia Woolf book (and it is) and Specimen Days has Walt Whitman as its guiding star (and it does, though thanks to the perception shown in my friend James Murphy's review, I was also able to view Whitman as a Dantean Virgil figure and now that I've since read The Divine Comedy, I see that more clearly), this is arguably Cunningham's Henry James book -- stylistically that is, with there not being much of a plot (though perhaps a very faint echo of The Wings of the ...more
Stephen P

Michael Cunningham, author of The Pulitzer Prize winning The Hours, creates a story about the unseen in his current novel, The Snow Queen. Two brothers, not seen by their parents turn to each other to provide a closeness to commandeer a validation of their existence, worth. The plot is further complicated by the wife of one brother suffering over time from a terminal cancer. Bed-bound, she is seen. Carefully, she is ministered to providing her husband a sense of much sought for meaning in life,
Ron Charles
Jesus warned that only “a wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign,” but what if a miraculous sign flashes over your head? What are you supposed to do — look away?

That’s the question confounding Barrett Meeks, the protagonist of Michael Cunningham’s contemplative new novel, “The Snow Queen.” Barrett isn’t looking for divine reassurance as he wanders through Central Park. He’s just trying not to feel discouraged about his latest breakup — by text message (ouch). And yet there
I had such a divided reaction to this book, and I'll start with my complaints so that I can leave off with the beautiful, poignant parts. The grumbling response: I am tired of books about hipsters, their crippling detachment, their drug abuse, their careful fashions, their longing for greatness. I'm looking at you, A Visit from the Goon Squad. And also, though in a goofier, happier mode, Telegraph Avenue. Are all writers hipsters who live in New York or San Francisco? Is that why la vie d'hipste ...more
I mean, I guess? I get we're all searching for something beyond love and what to have for dinner, a desire for a sense of meaning, a sense of transcendence, etc. but when I finished the last page I was left wondering what this book is actually about (aside from chronicling random bits of the lives of a few lost New Yorkers). If I had to sum it up? Love is powerful. Okay, yeah. We get it, Michael.

This novel is a perfect example of pretention. The writing is pretentious. Conversations between characters are unrealistic and reek of terrible, superficial intellectualism and philosophical insight that makes you want to gag. There is no plot. None. It's just an exercise in over-the-top descriptive drivel with the very thin thread of Beth's sickness to tie it together. I couldn't have been more disappointed with this work from a touted, multi-award winning author.
Gosh, no! I still remember, I don't know how many years ago, trying to read 'The Hours' (in Portuguese) and having to put the book aside. I don't remember what made me not want to continue, but I thought that, after some years, I would be able to read and enjoy a Michael Cunningham book.

Well, I'm glad I picked a rather short one! Maybe I lack maturity to appreciate this, maybe it's just not my style, or maybe I just don't like Cunningham's writing, what he does with his characters. Maybe he is o
switterbug (Betsey)
Cunningham’s new novel is a fertile character study with a minimalist plot. There’s a central premise that hovers (literally!) over the story and provides a pique of low-grade excitement. Thirty-eight year-old Barrett Meeks, a scholar and underachiever who is low on funds and works in retail at a vintage store, has recently received a break-up text from his latest boyfriend. Walking through Central Park four days later, he sees a transcendent, numinous image in the sky.

“ A pale aqua light, trans
When I called the store, a kind man at the Green Arcade in San Francisco agreed to put a copy of The Snow Queen aside for me on May 7, the day after its release.* Apparently, my enthusiasm showed, because when I walked into the store he knew immediately that I had come to claim my copy. I wasn’t surprised, because I felt breathless and flushed, as if reuniting with a lover.

Reading this book was better than any such assignation.

The story, of Barrett Meeks and his brother and roommate Tyler, both
3.5 stars
From the start, this novel reminded me of La Boheme (or Rent for less operatic readers). We have illness, addiction, sex, money problems and even "visions" all in a crumbling apartment. I could practically hear the music swelling under the scenes. And, in fact, the overly indulgent look into these self-centered 20, 30 and 40 something's does ever into the melodramatic.

But it's also brilliant in many moments. The quality of writing alone rescues this novel from sappy to breathtaking.

The beauty of Michael Cummingham's sentences are to savior --not devour!

Here is a sample:

"Barrett does his best to transit some kind of healing force, through the palm of his hand. Then he walks out of the sickroom, returns to the comforting normalcy of the hall, and heads to the kitchen, where Tyler is awake, where coffee has been made, where rampancy of life, even in its most rudimentary form, plays like enchanted piper; where Tyler, suitor and swain, ferocious of brow, thin but athletically
Larry Hoffer
Barrett and Tyler Meeks are brothers. They're different in many ways—Barrett, who is gay, hasn't been able to settle down enough in his life to pursue a serious vocation, while Tyler is a struggling musician, obsessed with what is going on in the world around him. But they're also fairly similar, as both brothers are fiercely protective of each other (owing to a promise each made separately to their mother when they were younger), and neither is utterly satisfied with the direction their life is ...more
I don't even know what I just read. It was so episodic and vague and the characters were fairly unlikeable. It was hard to get invested in this one.
Ayelet Waldman
I think maybe it's because I read this on my Ipad. I kept losing track of the story. I so much prefer to read an actual book.
Encore une fois, la poésie et la mélancolie qui se dégage des romans de Michael Cunningham nous touchent au cœur dans Snow Queen. A travers cette galerie de portraits, l'auteur nous propose un puzzle d'émotions et de sentiments qui nous bousculent et nous charment. Comment ne pas s'attacher à Barrett, Tyler, Beth, Liz, Andrew, Sam ? Ces personnages un peu paumés et pourtant plein d'espoir face à la mort, à la maladie, à l'amour, à l'attente et à la vie tout simplement… Ces personnages en quête d ...more
Nancy Brisson
What I love about Michael Cunningham is that he is a reader’s writer. His literary allusions are satisfyingly extended metaphors that enrich the story he is telling. That effect is most profound if you are intimately familiar with the particular writer or genre he is riffing on, but I am guessing that it embellishes the overall message of his story whether you get the allusion or not. This particular novel is decorated and layered with imagery. His novel The Hours was just about as perfect as a ...more
Beth Anne
gah. another so so read. my expectations may have been too high, but i really feel that the author didn't live up to what he was trying to achieve. i think Cunningham writes beautiful sentences. but when you put them together i think sometimes they become overwhelming. the plot of the story is lost in all the beautiful writing.

i didn't get any references to the Snow Queen (Hans Christian Andersen), except for the fact that there was snow. i didn't find the conflict worth anything. i didn't find
C'è un curioso rigore matematico che contraddistingue la carriera letteraria di Cunningham: ogni cinque anni esce un romanzo. Ne sono passati poco meno di quattro dall'ultimo. Forse sarebbe stato meglio se si fosse preso quell'anno in più per completare questo romanzo, che anche al lettore più disattento apparirà ben presto come privo di sostanza.
La scrittura c'è, ed è sempre quella bellissima di Cunningham, rimarresti ore a veder scintillare ogni singola parola, quasi fosse davvero un irripetib

«Parece que o amor chega não só sem se fazer anunciar, mas também tão acidentalmente, tão aleatoriamente, que te faz pensar porque é que tu, porque é que alguém há-de acreditar nas leis de causa e efeito.» (p. 239)
Terri Jacobson
This is the first book I have read by Pulitzer Prize winning author Michael Cunningham, and I have to say I was quite impressed. The story unfolds and the characters are developed so that you're drawn in from the first word. And the writing! The writing is beautiful and detailed and emotionally complicated, its tragic and comic in turns. The story involves 2 brothers in New York City whose grown-up lives are heavily intertwined. Tyler is a frustrated musician taking care of his very sick girlfri ...more
Who is the Snow Queen in Michael Cunningham book? The first answer that pops into my head after finishing this novel is who cares? This was a story without much of a plot, filled with flat characters and some seriously self indulgent writing. It's short, but even so, I found myself just skimming over long, dull paragraphs of blahblahblah, looking for the parts where something actually happens.

We begin with Barrett, whose walking through Central Park and sees a light in the sky - what is this li
Erin Chandler
I feel like I've just spent a few weeks in Brooklyn, in the middle winter, with two brothers Barrett and Tyler. Barrett is a kick, my kind of hermit. A quick witted, half sullen, loner far too cool to bother with anything but the bare minimum. At the moment he's working at his friend Liz's novelty shop. Liz is strangely accessible for the tough NYC chick that she is. Barrett lives with his brother, Tyler, a musician whose time has pretty much passed. Tyler has a secret love affair with cocaine w ...more
Conheço Michael Cunningham apenas de As Horas, um dos melhores livros, e já agora filmes, que li/vi até agora. E, como tal, estava com grandes expectativas em relação ao novo livro do autor publicado em Portugal, A Rainha da Neve.

Mais uma vez, Michael Cunningham é exímio em criar personagens com conteúdo psicológico intenso, fortes mas ao mesmo tempo frágeis, com vidas complicadas.

Opinião completa:
Nancy Wiltgen
This novel was a complete waste of time. As Veronica pointed out in her review, the only redeeming quality in the audio version is the brilliant reading by Claire Danes. And not having to read apparently many, many parenthetical side tracks. I kept listening because I hoped the story - what little there was - would take shape or something interesting would form out of the drivel, but, alas, suddenly the book was over and .... nothing.
I couldn't get on board with this story. Unlikeable characters, sad plot lines, just a dreary read.
Ivy Pittman
Page after page I waited for this story to come to life. Yawn.
Imagine reading The Snow Queen as having a garrulous and melancholy friend who keeps lowering his voice as he goes on and on about his day. As the time passes, you find yourself straining more and more to hear, until his ruminations become inaudible whispers. Naturally, at that point, you would probably beg, with a relative degree of pleasantness, that he speak up. You do not necessarily want the friend to shut up, but you just want to understand him better. However, the same is not possible wit ...more
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So...who is the Snow Queen? 6 61 Aug 27, 2014 07:22AM  
ending? 1 20 Aug 24, 2014 04:24PM  
Book Keeping: The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham 2 20 Jul 15, 2014 04:21PM  
  • The Two Hotel Francforts
  • The Blazing World
  • Starting Over: Stories
  • Kinder Than Solitude
  • In Paradise
  • Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932
  • The Possibilities
  • Everything
  • Wonderland
  • The Painter
  • Haussmann, or the Distinction
  • Casebook
  • Tumbledown
  • The Year She Left Us
  • Purity
  • In the Wolf's Mouth: A Novel
  • Visible City
  • Someone
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 & Pulitzer Prize), Specimen Days, and By Nightfall, as well as the non-fiction book, Land's End: A Walk in Provincetown. His new novel, The Snow Queen, will be published in May of 2014. He lives in New York, and teaches at Yale University.
More about Michael Cunningham...
The Hours A Home at the End of the World By Nightfall Specimen Days Flesh And Blood

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“People are more than you think they are. And they’re less, as well. The trick lies in negotiating your way between the two.” 9 likes
“The song is an unvarnished love shout, an implorement tinged with...anger? Something like anger, but the anger of a philosoher, the anger of a pot. An anger directed at the transience of the world, at its heartbreaking beauty that collides constantly with our awareness of the fact that everything gets taken away, that we're being shown marvels but reminded always that they don't belong to us. They're sultans' treasures; we're lucky, we're expected to feel lucky to have been invited to see them at all.” 5 likes
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