Eighteen-year-old Debbie was raised on her family’s rural dairy farm, forty minutes and a world away from Dublin. She lives with her mother, Maeve, a skittish woman who takes to her bed for days on end, claims not to know who Debbie’s father is, and believes her dreams are prophecies. Earning a place at Trinity College Dublin, she commutes to her classes a few days a week. Outside the sheltered bubble of her childhood for the first time, Debbie finds herself both overwhelmed and disappointed by her fellow students and the pace and anonymity of city life.
... a warm-hearted book: several degrees warmer, in fact, than the work of Sally Rooney, to which it has already been compared ... intimate, chatty, immensely readable. There’s an original and distinctive voice here, and a strong sense of character and place ... a loosely plotted book in which events arise from character rather than from any imposed structure — all the more impressive, therefore, that it’s such a pacey read. Character is Nealon’s great strength. Uncle Billy, with his cluttered caravan and his barely concealed loneliness, is a wonderful creation; but it’s Debbie, so convincingly rendered as a volatile mixture of vulnerability and determination, who most fully engages ... a novel about how it feels to be young, uncertain and troubled; it conjures this condition with honesty and precise observational skill. Nealon has a nice ear for the apposite simile ... Some parts of the book feel a bit undercooked. Xanthe, for example, veers towards caricature at points, and certain narrative threads aren’t fully tied up. Yet this is excusable in a debut novel, especially in one that contains so many riches. Snowflake is an auspicious beginning.
Debbie is smart, self-pitying and self-aware; a mix of naivety and precocity that disguises—just—how at sea she is. To her new Trinity College Dublin friends, she is charmingly 'authentic'”; she knows herself to be far more fragile. This blend of knowing/unknowing is something Nealon exploits cleverly ... The book is full of great lines ... will inevitably gather comparisons with Sally Rooney. But Nealon has her own voice. Her writing is clever, witty, wryly elegant and full of emotional truth.
... one of the most heartwarming, honest and brilliant coming-of-age novels you will read this year ... This novel is a true gift from Nealon, who has embraced wholeheartedly the writer’s credo to write what you know ... Reading it is to lose yourself in reveries about the imperfections of life, the people we love and care for, self-doubt and the pursuit of joy.