The Snow Ball
New Year’s Eve, a masquerade ball. White pages festooned with words to describe a white room, decadent and voluptuous yet, in its utter whiteness, barely there at all. More pages, sitting in that white room, devoted to the process of painting makeup onto an unsymmetrical face, not to make it beautiful, but to disguise or protect it, or perhaps simply to confuse the not-quite-white Siamese kitten meeting the gaze in the mirror from the pillowed bed behind.
A frank conversation, voiced with amusement, about what it means to be fat, beautiful, or rich. Then downstairs, back to the ball, where the newly painted face seeks to avoid a masked Don Giovanni in the dancing crowd, and New Year’s Eve revellers greet one another with demands of ‘Who Are You?’ without caring to wait for an answer.
Thus is the exquisitely wrought chaos of Brigid Brophy’s The Snow Ball, first published in 1964 yet just as redolent of our own times as it is of the 1960s high society it delicately describes and derides.
Revealing through her characters the author’s own complementary obsessions with ‘Mozart, sex and death’, this is an indulgent novel, but a brilliant one, striking the perfect balance between irreverence and utter seriousness, wonderment and wit.
In precise, intelligent, frantic prose, Brophy achieves a madness that is both compelling and sad. A superb dance of a read.
Words: Hannah Clarkson