I’m a little bit slow when it comes to reading the Man Booker Prize winners and nominees. I haven’t read any of the books on this year’s shortlist yet and ‘Snowdrops’ by A. D. Miller is only the second book on last year’s shortlist that I have read so far. It tells the story of Nick Platt, a British lawyer in his thirties living in Moscow. After meeting Masha who soon becomes his girlfriend, Nick gets involved in a property deal. This being Russia, let’s just say it doesn’t go quite as planned…
‘Snowdrops’ is essentially a crime story but it is more of a psychological slow-burner than a fast-paced thriller. As the blurb on the back cover says, a snowdrop is Russian slang for “a corpse that lies buried or hidden in the winter snows, emerging only in the thaw” and there are certainly some dark secrets involved which eventually come to light. Miller’s use of language and imagery is brilliantly inventive in both his depictions of his characters: “Sergei Borisovich was short, with a face like a perplexed potato” (page 26) and of modern Russia: “The air smelled of cheap petrol, grilled meat and lust” (page 11). There is a lot of humour in the text as well as the inevitably sinister and chilling undercurrent of corruption. Nick is a strangely likeable and compelling narrator as he tells his story to his wife-to-be (the question is, will she still marry him…?) I think I was expecting a bit more from the crime side of the story but Nick’s morally ambiguous character is interesting enough to carry the narrative through to the end.
The novels nominated for the Man Booker Prize in 2011 were specifically chosen for their readability. ‘Snowdrops’ is certainly readable and much more entertaining and darkly humorous than I was expecting. It’s definitely worth giving it a go especially if you are a bit underwhelmed by the sort of books that are normally nominated for literary prizes like the Booker. You might be pleasantly surprised.
5 responses to “Snowdrops by A. D. Miller”
There seems to be almost a spiteful backlash in some circles as to how or why the novel was shortlisted for the Booker. It makes me wonder if people expect Booker nominees to be opaque and obtuse, and become mulish when they prove to be readable. I thought Snow Drop was enjoyable and well-written myself, and I’m always glad to hear a positive take on this book.
Slow and when you feel like is good in my view, I’m currently reading Tan Twang Eng’s ‘The Gift of Rain’, his first book which was nominated in 2007, even though he has another book shortlisted this year.
I haven’t read this one, but it looks interesting, great review.
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