The farm itself is robustly run by Liv, his no-nonsense wife. It is depicted with vivid clarity, the downbeat note of memoir occupying the place of narrative drive ... This framing device creates a mise en abyme: the selections from Jimmy's unpublished works illustrate his belief that the historian should be included in the historical picture, and are further set in the context of the narrator's own mainly childhood memories ... While the subsequent presentations of the black slave Olaudah Equiano's dubious 18th-century travel narrative and the story of Kitchener's death (and ensuing hoax) might be interesting in themselves, Hildyard's treatment illustrates the narrator's insistence that 'all histories are a kind of fruitless pursuit' ... Whether it soars to new altitudes or flaps its single wing helplessly very much depends on the individual reader's patience.
This is a truly dazzling first novel. Every paragraph bristles with cleverness and yet it is a warm-hearted book, at times overpoweringly moving ... Hildyard cunningly explores this dichotomy — telling a good yarn, and trying to separate this need from the need to get at the facts — with superb meditations on three mysterious historical subjects, subjects which have become encrusted with speculation and legend ... Above all this is a passionate book ... This book is not just a promising first effort by a bright young writer. It is a considerable work of literature.
There are longish passages on the history of the microscope, Werner Herzog and the mining industry in the north of England, all of which are well-drawn enough to harmonise with the book’s broader themes rather than distracting from them ... This said, the contemporary family story that sets up and supports the rest of the plot not always given its proper due ... It still speaks for Hildyard’s skill as a storyteller that these more intimate passages are good enough to make us wish there were more of them ... The prose itself if often quite beautiful and surprising...but every now and then it clunks ... Hunters in the Snow’s ambition, scope and assurance (it’s worth saying again that this is a debut) are thrilling and admirable, and make for a very fine book indeed.
...an erudite but entertaining smorgasbord of anecdote and scholarship, pungently flavoured with reflections on the nature of the historian’s craft ... Although the overarching narrative of this debut novel is perhaps slight, Daisy Hildyard’s skill has been to weave all the disparate elements into a seamlessly structured and utterly absorbing investigation of our relationship with the past ... The writing, with its use of text and image, its mix of conventions from historical account to memoir, has a strong non-fiction feel, the fictional form allowing greater creative freedom ... So rich in texture it deserves many rereadings.
Hunters in the Snow is an ambitious, almost impossibly wide-ranging book. It shares the structure of Jimmy’s unfinished history: each section is loosely based around a different historical character. But it interweaves these passages with childhood memories and the present day, straying nonchalantly from medieval history to a trip to the local tip ... Unfortunately, the book’s attempts to thread the historical past with recent childhood memories are at times remarkably clumsy ... Where the novel is most original, though, is in tone. If a good writer is someone who matches style to subject, this novel is very promising indeed. It appropriates the characters’ world of academia to highly stylised effect ... Where complexity is intended, opacity is often the result, ultimately making this less enjoyable than it ought to be.
The influence cast by WG Sebald over contemporary fiction grows ever longer. Daisy Hildyard's intriguing first novel is profoundly indebted to the late German author through its use of disparate images...to lend verisimilitude to her inwardly historical but outwardly fictional text. ... In Sebald's fiction, personal histories circle like vultures over the inexplicable terror of the Holocaust; the central flaw in Hildyard's novel is that it lacks any comparable anchor. Nevertheless, Hunters in the Snow is a remarkably intelligent debut and the prose is impressively nimble.