My rating: 4 stars
Taking place during a single night, the novella The Snow Ball by Brigid Brophy explores different relationships, some involving seduction and perchance love. The contrast between them is partially achieved thanks to the age difference between some of the characters. While Anna is struggling to deal with the inevitability of growing old, Ruth Blumenbaum is still an inexperienced young woman.
New Year’s Eve is a common time for celebration. Anna attends a masquerade ball at the house of her friend Anne. No sooner does the clock chime midnight than a man masked as Don Giovanni kisses her on the lips. Although she runs away from him at the time, afterwards she decides to find him again with Anne’s help. She isn’t successful in locating him. He is the one who finds her. Meanwhile, Ruth is writing a diary about the events she is witnessing at the ball.
The highlights of the book are the conversations between Anna and Don Giovanni. They are extremely gripping. It feels like they are either challenging or trying to impress one another by being witty. There are also many sensuous and funny moments that turn this simple story into a compelling novella, including jokes about Scandinavian names sounding like they are Latin and the jealousy older people feel of the young.
“He laughed. ‘Don’t think I don’t know what you mean. It’s a night for youthanasia.’”
The narration is exceptionally detailed. Not only are the actions of the characters described in detail, which makes them easy to visualise, but the same is also true of the setting and many of the characters’ appearances. The way Anna’s face is described is both fastidious and humorous. She is hard on herself.
“The face would yield sensuous pleasure: but the sensualist must undertake an ascetic self-discipline first. He must harden himself to tolerate a tragic face whose tragedy was couched in half-formed baby features which, individually smudged and then squeezed up close together, had finally slipped or been twisted sideways in relation to the face, making it the face of an immortal baroque baby pettishly carrying into middle age the impress of being newly, and distortingly, born.”
Readers who are familiar with Mozart’s work certainly have extra reasons to appreciate The Snow Ball by Brigid Brophy. Not only is his name mentioned a couple of times, but the book also likely features other reminders of his masterpieces. Those who are not, like me, can still spend a good time with an entertaining story.