Cold Enough for Snow

Jessica Au

Published 23 February 2022 | French paperback with flaps, 104 pages
Winner of the Readings Prize – New Australian Fiction 2022 | Winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction 2023 | Winner of the Victorian Prize for Literature 2023 | Longlisted for the 2023 Australian Indie Book Awards | Longlisted for the Dublin Literary Award 2023

Read preview

A mother and daughter travel from abroad to meet in Tokyo: they walk along the canals through the autumn evenings, escape the typhoon rains, share meals in small cafés and restaurants, and visit galleries to see some of the city’s most radical modern art. All the while, they talk: about the weather, horoscopes, clothes, and objects, about family, distance, and memory. But uncertainties abound. Who is really speaking here – is it only the daughter? And what is the real reason behind this elliptical, perhaps even spectral journey? At once a careful reckoning and an elegy, Cold Enough for Snow questions whether any of us speak a common language, which dimensions can contain love, and what claim we have to truly know another’s inner world.

’Slim, beautifully simple … Au’s new work … shows that she has learnt to play to her strengths.… She finds momentum in the closely observed oscillations of a single relationship.
Baya Simons, Financial Times

‘Au’s novel is … masterly in the way it evokes our dissociation from desire – our own and other people’s…. We can sense it in the soft, patient warmth of Au’s prose, which sometimes feels attuned to truths just out of the narrator’s reach.’
Peter C. Baker, New Yorker

’This slim, expertly crafted and beguiling novella that flits between the past and present was the inaugural winner of the international Novel Prize. There is an absolute certainty to Jessica Au’s prose, but the evanescent story she tells – of a young woman who takes her mother on a trip to Japan, their conversations and reflections on their lives – abounds with ambiguities.’
Jason Steger, Sydney Morning Herald

‘This novella is graceful and precise. Like the narrator fine-tuning the aperture on her Nikon camera, Au seems to say, we have to choose our scale, what we pay attention to…. Finally, we bump up against what is not knowable. Au has mentioned her taste for “subverting narrative expectation … open endings, scenes in which nothing happens yet everything happens”. Cold Enough for Snow is exactly this, a book of inference and small mysteries. The stories, memories and images Au puts on the table escape easy conclusions.… Aesthetic, opaque, endlessly uncoiling.’
Imogen Dewey, Guardian

‘Jessica Au finds poetry in meandering, slippery transitions between anecdotes, with their nebulous timelines and transcontinental trajectories.’
Los Angeles Review of Books

‘This clever, phantom-like work eludes definition.’
Catherine Taylor, Guardian 

‘Au’s is a book of deceptive simplicity, weaving profound questions of identity and ontology into the fabric of quotidian banality…. What matters, the novel reassures us, is constantly imbricated with the everyday, just as alienation and tender care can coexist in the same moment.’
Claire Messud, Harpers

‘Rarely have I been so moved, reading a book: I love the quiet beauty of Cold Enough for Snow and how, within its calm simplicity, Jessica Au camouflages incredible power.’
— Édouard Louis, author of Who Killed My Father

‘So calm and clear and deep, I wished it would flow on forever.’
— Helen Garner, author of The First Stone

‘Au’s writing ebbs along effortlessly and poetically.’
— The Australian

‘Jessica Au is a new talent to be watched.’
— Romy Ash, Australian Book Review

‘The book relates the journey of the narrator, a woman in her twenties, and her mother who visit Japan in the autumn. On this fictional trip, the two women discuss art and their room sand the weather, which might be boring if it weren’t for Au’s svelte sentences and hypnotic sense of rhythm. Almost imperceptibly, the tale becomes more complex.… What begins simply ends in uncertainty.’

‘It’s a beautifully crafted novel about connection that asks if we can ever truly know the people closest to us.’
Katie Goh, i-D Magazine

‘Flawed understanding, consolation, and insufficiency all infuse this compelling, unsettling novel reminiscent of Jhumpa Lahiri’s Whereabouts or Rachel Cusk’s Outline trilogy. A beautifully observed book, written in precise, elegant prose that contains a wealth of deep feeling.’
Kirkus starred review

‘Quietly deft and moving.’ 
Ellen Pierson-Hagger, New Statesman

Cold Enough for Snow … is a fresh venture down the road of migratory stories, ones that explore the fault lines that distance can create between members of the same family…. For all of us who are rendered far from our families by these distances, the book asks us, what can we share with our parents that keeps us tethered to them?’
Jimin Kang, The Oxonian Review

‘A triumph of subtlety and precision, its observations piercing yet compassionate, fleeting yet profound … this book feels like a deep, slow breath of fresh air.’
Rachel Farmer, Lunate

Cold Enough for Snow … is dreamlike, between traum und trauma, in its aethereal cadences. And if Au is striking out for herself, the essence of the move is in her patient manner: not self-restrained (as trauma might be) but self-measured (as a slow dream might be). Her prose is serenely executed: astutely and expertly.’
Joshua Calladine-Jones, Hong Kong Review of Books

Cold Enough for Snow is a generous meditation on the subjectivity of experience, and how the stories held within a family can be strangely disparate, especially when migration is part of their history…. Above all, this is a book which resists any easy summary, offering the reader the complexities of experience itself.’
— Andy Jackson, The Saturday Paper

Cold Enough for Snow is a reckoning and an elegy: with extraordinary skill, Au creates an enveloping atmosphere that expresses both the tenderness between mother and daughter, and the distance between them.’ 
— Jackie Tang, Readings Monthly

‘[Cold Enough for Snow] is melancholic and wistful, but Au finds grace and succour in the small act of observing people, places and art.’
— Ben East, Guardian

‘[Au’s] calm, precise prose encourages a slowing…. [Cold Enough for Snow] is about … looking closely, contemplating, being patient enough to let the world seep in, especially the small but beautiful things, while being comfortable with what goes unsaid.’ 

 ‘A fascinating, touching story that becomes a meditation on the link between sensory experience and the intangibility of memory, ultimately asking how our lives can both recapitulate and diverge from those of the people around us.’ 
David Griffiths, Buzz Magazine

‘Captivating, thought-provoking, and a joy to read, Cold Enough for Snow was a truly absorbing experience.’
Caroline Spalding, Yorkshire Times

Jessica Au is a writer based in Melbourne, Australia. Cold Enough for Snow won the inaugural Novel Prize, run by Giramondo, New Directions and Fitzcarraldo Editions, and is set to be published in eighteen countries.