Snowdrops by A.D.Miller
Noir, crime fiction, psychological fiction.
This debut novel by A D Miller was shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize. Set in the early 2000s Russia, it is a study of decadence and moral depravity of a society and its effect on individuals.
What it’s About
Nick Platt, a British lawyer working in Moscow finds the limitless indulgence of the East a good change from the smooth and uneventful life of his native England. An illicit affair juxtaposed with shady dealings at his workplace and the uncertainity of life of an average person in Russia forms the backdrop of the novel.
Snowdrops starts with the description of a woman and the hint of a lustful relationship. The engaging mention of Moscow/ Russian landscape, the talk of the soon fading summer and the book turns into a memoir of the author’s time in Russia. Russia is reviled, exclaimed at, wondered about and at the same time loved to distraction. It is this part of the book, that explores Russia that I loved the most. I have always been fascinated by the country and the people and here was a chance to see it up close, through an outsider’s eye.
Snowdrops is full of ‘soft focus anecdotes’, groping for time and places that gives it a dream like and unreal feeling.
What works well
Tatiana Vladimirovna, the aunt to the girls Masha and Katya is lovable and it is through her that the winter thaw seems to set in the book’s pace.
Snowdrops brings to us Russia in all its glory, the harshness and the beauty. The book moves on the delightful streets of St. Petersberg, Odessa and the famous promenade of Nevsky Prospekt.
What doesn’t work so well
Till the middle of this short novel, the direction of the story is uncertain. Is it going to be a story of love lost and regained or of a wasteful lust or a meandering through the stunningly beautiful landscape of Russia?
The pace is languid and the scenes are right out of the writers’ head so that the characters are not delineated very well. We know of Masha’s coldness only through the eyes of Nick’s mother and a hint of her being dangerous through the Cossack’s warning.
Nick is unbelievably naive. He never notices the irregularities and the suspicious loopholes in his dealings with people; the Cossack, Masha and Katya who are not sisters and the real estate dealer but he chooses to ignore it all till the corpse looks him in the face. He does nothing to speed up his evacuation from Moscow; he is the narrator and a chance pawn and an accomplice by way of non interference.
The plot and the storyline are predictable because of the hints to the immoral and the corrupt fabric of the society.
A.D. Miller’s ode to Russia, is a good enough read and one that keeps the reader looking for more from the author.