Snowstop by Alan Sillitoe
Publication Date: June 14, 2016
Publisher: Open Road Media
Blurb from Goodreads: A gripping thriller set among Britain’s snowy peaks from the bestselling author of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.
Suspense, secrets, conspiracy, and entrapment come to a head in this dark allegory of the modern postwar condition. Snowbound in the remote White Cavalier Hotel in the mountains of England’s Lake District, a motley mix of strangers think they have found refuge, but instead discover a violent drama that is ready to explode.
I came to Snowstop by Alan Sillitoe expecting some type of upscale literary variation on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None but instead encountered initial chapters of sometimes mind-numbing prose, which almost halted my progress. However, like the desperate characters in Snowstop, I carried on.
A bleak sea going through the motions of stormforce, then the underwater cables broke, lines down in the wilderness. from Chapter 11, Snowstop
The first twelve chapters introduce the reader to the characters who are all destined for the White Cavalier Hotel. None of the characters comes across as likable, with the exception of Lance, a biker who seems to combine working class and poet, much like Sillitoe. Lance is the only one who comes across as fair and without extreme moral baggage. Each of the other characters is desperately running from something besides the blizzard and, more than the averages would allow, several are running from the law.
As the characters come together at the hotel, the point-of-view runs amok, transitioning from one character to another to another so that you will have three different viewpoints in as many paragraphs, which can lead to confusion when you try to determine who the “he” is who is thinking. Although, I wonder, in retrospect if that’s not intentional as it would be credible for several of these characters to process similar immoral thoughts and to not provide differentiation might show how very alike they are despite coming from different backgrounds.
When the three bikers join the stranded travelers at the hotel, the tension increases in part because of the conflicts rising among the characters, but also because the reader is aware of the truck of explosives that sits next to the hotel armed for 8 o’clock in the morning (This is not a spoiler; for brevity, I omitted the part of the blurb that mentions it.)
From here on, it’s fair to say that behavior degenerates in pretty much every way possible. And, it’s really here that the story comes to life with the characters sometimes irrationally butting heads, much like a testosterone-fueled pissing contest.
Having finished this book, I feel certain that this was not one of Sillitoe’s better works. He is best known for his collection of short stories, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and the novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, both of which pigeon-holed him (much to his disgust) as one of the Angry Young Men set of writers along with John Osborne. What The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner possesses, for me, is a clarity of narration that is missing in Snowstop. It is obvious in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner that Sillitoe is writing in the lean style of his then literary hero, Ernest Hemingway. Snowstop on the other hand seems to be an amalgam of styles with dense sometimes cryptic poetic writing alongside spare pugnacity.
I understand that this is a continuation of his reflection upon the working class man and there are numerous derogatory comments aimed toward Thatcher and her iron-fisted governing style, but the book seems dated even for 1993, when it was originally published. The treatment of women alone, in which they are depicted as frivolous creatures who fall in love in literally an hour, who are nonentities unless given justification by a man, also indicates a dated quality befitting a novel from much earlier.
Is Snowstop a novel to be read as a diversion? Probably not. There is too much of an obvious agenda in its telling for it to be treated as simply entertainment. I would suggest that it should be read along with other Sillitoe works, probably starting with his earlier fiction, in order to understand his importance to the mid-twentieth century British literary movement.
From Amazon: Snowstop
3 thoughts on “Review of Snowstop”
Wasn’t aware that this had been published – I know his short stories. Thanks for this balanced and interesting review. Nick
Thank you! 🙂