Daisy Hildyard’s weaves historical fiction and an emotional family narrative in her unusual and beguiling first novel, Hunters in the Snow.
The book takes both its name and cover image from the painting by Bruegel and follows a young woman as she discovers an unfinished book at her grandfather’s farm after his death, a History of Modern England that could well have been his greatest work.
There is an interesting conversation that runs beneath the surface of the novel about the nature of history as a concept and as a discipline. It uses its the central character and her fond but complicated relationship with her grandfather to ask questions about the role of the historian within their own time.
The granddaughter-grandfather relationship is, in turn, explored through their shared passion for history, with the protagonist ultimately learning things about her grandfather, a man who in many ways was her idol, through his choices of what to record in his own personal historical account.
This is an intriguing book about the legacy of a man who, by his granddaughter’s admission, did not lead an especially interesting life, but had a knack for spotting moments of genuine historical significance in the lives of others, and used his time to document them.
Daisy Hildyard is originally from Yorkshire and studied at Oxford University.
Hunters in the Snow was in the running for our 2013 First Book Award.