Pub. Date: June 7, 2016
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Simon & Schuster!!)
Summary: It is 1831 when eight-year-old Aurelia Vennaway finds a naked baby girl abandoned in the snow on the grounds of her aristocratic family’s magnificent mansion. Her parents are horrified that she has brought a bastard foundling into the house, but Aurelia convinces them to keep the baby, whom she names Amy Snow. Amy is brought up as a second-class citizen, despised by Vennaways, but she and Aurelia are as close as sisters. When Aurelia dies at the age of twenty-three, she leaves Amy ten pounds, and the Vennaways immediately banish Amy from their home.
But Aurelia left her much more. Amy soon receives a packet that contains a rich inheritance and a letter from Aurelia revealing she had kept secrets from Amy, secrets that she wants Amy to know. From the grave she sends Amy on a treasure hunt from one end of England to the other: a treasure hunt that only Amy can follow. Ultimately, a life-changing discovery awaits…if only Amy can unlock the secret. In the end, Amy escapes the Vennaways, finds true love, and learns her dearest friend’s secret, a secret that she will protect for the rest of her life.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Sprawling Epic
You know those books that leave you spellbound, breathless, and emotionally drained? Hello, Internet, meet Amy Snow. I first received this one months ago – though, initially, I was a little scared by the size, nearly 600 pages! It sounded like the perfect Leah Read: 1800s, a nearly sister-like bond between two girls (one, the privileged daughter of the estate, the other an orphan found in the snow), and a treasure hunt. Attached was a letter from the Executive Editor of Simon & Schuster saying she devoured the book in a single sitting while on a train and completely ignored the world around her – if that’s not high praise, I don’t know what is!
As the only child to the vast Vennaway fortune, Aurelia is doted upon by her parents and they give in to her every whim. That is, until the night the eight-year-old discovers a newborn lying naked and practically blue in the snow. Not hesitating for a second, Aurelia brings the baby inside to warm it by the fire, keep it cozy on the plush rug. Aurelia didn’t count on her parents to be horrified and disgusted, however, and almost immediately the baby is plucked from the warm room and deposited in a potato bucket down in the kitchen. So begins Amy Snow’s life at Hatville Court.
Thumbing her nose at polite society, Aurelia looks at Amy as a sister when others would ignore her. She insists Amy attend lessons with her where Amy learns to read and write; as Aurelia reaches a certain age, the pair giggle at and mock the ridiculous suitors seeking her hand. The two are thick as thieves and as close as sisters, only to receive the news that Aurelia’s health is in sharp decline and she’s fading fast. When Amy is only seventeen, her beloved friend passes away, and the very next day (only because the Vennaways’ reputation would be tarnished if they were to turn her out the moment Aurelia took her last breath) Amy is sent from Hatville Court, forbidden to ever return.
For the first time Amy is on her own, sent into a world she has never known. Aurelia’s will left Amy a meager sum, an amount so inconsequential the Vennaways didn’t bat an eye. What they didn’t know, however, is that Aurelia was bound and determined to ensure Amy received exactly what Aurelia wanted her to and a letter secreted away launches Amy on a treasure hunt that takes her across England, introduces her to some very interesting people AND high society, and lets her in on some life-changing secrets Aurelia had been hiding.
THIS BOOK. Seriously, if there’s one book to read this summer, it’s Amy Snow. Don’t let its door-stopper size scare you off – this book could have been another 600 pages and I would have lapped it up! From the very first page I was pulled in – I totally understand what the Executive Editor meant when she said she didn’t look up until she had finished! The friendship and love shared by Amy and Aurelia; the house of horrors that is Hatville Court; the anticipation of uncovering a new clue on Amy’s hunt, everything was so beautifully crafted that I’m honestly in shock that this is a debut. Even more shocking: Amy Snow took off through a story competition! In her acknowledgments, Rees thanked her parents, for without them and their insistence she enter the contest, this book would never have been more than six pages and for that, I have to thank her parents too.
As Amy digs deeper into Aurelia’s letters (and, therefore, the life she never told Amy about) I felt as though I was the one on the hunt. I was bursting with excitement with each new letter Amy received, more than once I found myself guessing at what the treasure was and as much as I loved the families Amy met along the way, I couldn’t wait to depart from one town and be on to the next location – enough socializing, Amy, we’re on a mission!!
While my initial guess (and Amy’s for that matter) turned out to be correct, it in no way detracted from my enjoyment on the novel. In fact, it made me want to know more! Amy Snow is that rare kind of novel that sneaks up on you completely unannounced and turns your world upside-down. The characters, the relationships (of all sorts), and settings were painstakingly created and instantly had me hooked. I immersed myself in Amy’s world, sharing her joys and disappointments along the way. I’m floored that this is a debut, but you better believe I’ll be reading whatever Rees does next (and I’m selfishly hoping the way won’t be too long!) I’m finding it difficult to put my thoughts down, so I’ll leave it at this: Amy Snow is an excellent, beautiful, sweeping novel that had me turning the pages and inhaling every sentence and when I reached the final page, I was heartbroken to say goodbye to the characters I had come to know. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this book.