Londoners are ill-prepared for a seemingly endless snowstorm in Kavli’s debut dystopian novel.
The mayor of London decides to raise funds by selling off the city’s snow-removal equipment—even its shovels. After all, he thinks, it never snows in London. But sure enough, a winter storm soon starts and doesn’t stop, so the city turns to a major snow-removal operation in Norway. The team is led by Liv Olsen, the mother of London’s communications adviser, Bjørn Olsen, whose flat in the Shadwell district becomes the operations center. Liv recruits drivers and initiates a plan to move and dump snow in designated areas. But the falling snow is relentless as weeks turn into months. Desperate, cold citizens find themselves without any form of communication and start looting and vandalizing places throughout London. Their loss of hope, though, is even worse, with some speculating that the storm is the beginning of a new ice age. This character-driven novel is short on plot but brimming with emotional resonance. Many characters are prone to despondency because the storm has no end in sight. Bjørn, too, is burdened by guilt for much of the narrative, as he believes that he could have prevented the mayor’s sale, which would have allowed his mother to remain with her husband, Odin, back in Norway. The story’s incessant reminders of the snow outside make the characters’ overwhelming fatigue understandable. At the same time, Kavli’s descriptions are lyrical and ominous: one of Bjørn’s flatmates feels that London is “starting to disappear,” and Bjørn, traversing the city, “ski[s] through a modernist painting of abstract shapes.” The author ensures that the story isn’t overcome by bleakness by adding dashes of humor. The mayor, for example, proves to be no help at all; he’s typically unresponsive because he’s always looking at his smartphone, checking for a signal. Indomitable, heroic characters, such as Liv, inject optimism into the plot; she picks up the mayor’s slack and becomes a leader of sorts. Likewise, when night watchman (and Liv’s eventual driver) Kweku finds Bjørn’s other flatmate passed out, he carries him through the snow, not even knowing if a hospital is nearby.
A foreboding tale of a snow-covered London in despair, enlivened by encouraging characters and events.