With the film adaptation of the book due out on 15th April, there has been a resurgence of interest in Shamim Sarif’s Despite the Falling Snow. I can see why. Book lovers always like the challenge of reading a novel before they go and see what those ghastly film people have done to the delightful world they’ve created in their imagination. There’s a reason why film producers adapt certain novels for the screen though; generally it’s because the subject matter is so full of character and charm and is so interesting that the story lends itself naturally to the big screen, and this this no exception.
Despite the Falling Snow has an interesting structure, starting in the present day with Alexander, a successful business owner who meets Melissa’s mother, Estelle. This meeting creates an unusual chain of events and begins to detail the fascinating back-story for Alexander. He wasn’t always so successful; Alexander is a first generation immigrant to the United States from Russia, having defected during the cold war. He’s always been rather secretive and closed off about his past life and his late wife, Katya, who was left behind when he defected.
This back-story allows for an intriguing plotline when Alexander’s niece, Lauren, decides that it’s time they found out why Katya was left behind and what really happened to her. It’s quite a complex plot but surprisingly easy to follow because it’s so superbly written. The characters are full of life and the attention to detail is stunning.
The events in the story are utterly tragic at times, but the writing still manages to feel hopeful and heart lifting. Despite the setting in Cold War Russia, during what must have been the bitterest of winters, the prose is completely enveloping and warming. Reading this book is like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket with a hot chocolate and brandy and locking out the world for a few delightful hours.
It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a story this much. I really hope that those film people do it justice. But of course they’re bound to because Shamim adapted the book herself, not just writing the screenplay but also directing the film. I can’t wait to see it.