Reading The Snow Ball by Brigid Brophy was like stepping back in time, and not just to the novel’s setting. It is New Year’s Eve in a grand London house where an 18th century costume party is in full swing. There is opulence wherever you look, from the costumes to the decor.
We are introduced to Anna, who is lamenting her age and lack of conventional beauty. She is dressed as Donna Anna from the Mozart opera Don Giovanni, (see homework.) Anna is passionately kissed by a gentleman dressed as her counterpart and title character. Thus begins an evening of seeking out the mysterious Don Giovanni, and on finding him, entering an enticing battle of wit and dialogue that may or may not end in seduction.
Thrown into the mix are characters such as Anne, lady of the house, collector of husbands, and surrogate mother/sister figure to Anna. Obese and dressed in gold lame, she has a bedroom of floor to ceiling white decadence. With several private stashes of peppermint creams, Anne graces the ball with the subtlety of an elephant.
Meanwhile, young heiress Ruth is attending her first costume party. She scrupulously documents every moment in her diary, with great comic effect. Upon seeing Anna with Don Giovanni, she writes ‘ANNA K. IS A WHORE.’ A few hours later when (spoiler) she has lost her virginity in the back of her father’s Bentley, Ruth writes, ‘Suppose I am too, now.’
The reason this book sends me back in time is because I can perfectly imagine studying it at university. The writing is witty and intelligent, with sharp observations of men and women. Women in particular are studied, including spinster, whore and divorcee. I could see myself scribbling lecture notes and discussing in seminars the characters and context of the piece.
It may not be for everyone, and I would think carefully about who I recommended it to, but I did enjoy The Snow Ball.
If you are considering taking on this book, I would recommend brushing up on your Don Giovanni knowledge. Brigid Brophy was quite the Mozart aficionado and handles the material with extreme confidence. I had a quick Google of the plot, and it helped me see the parallels and satire within The Snow Ball.