93 internautes sur 103 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
On the surface, A.D. Miller's fascinating debut novel Snowdrops has all the ingredients of a devastating tale of morality gone awry. Set brilliantly in the heart of Moscow and its environs, the wintry setting provides a background to a world that exists unlike any other. And Miller's strength is that he has an insider's knowledge of this strange, but distasteful, land where bureaucratic corruption, decadence, and petty fraud coexist with beauty, idealism, and cultural promise. Okay, so maybe it's not a world "unlike any other" under those terms--but there's just something so inherently intriguing about the openness of Moscow's decadence that makes it an undeniably appealing "character" in Miller's story. And, in fact, Moscow is the most delineated and complex "character" that Miller has described. The human protagonists, however, are all rather chilly. The book unfolds as a confessional with British lawyer Nick Platt recounting, via writing, his past indiscretions to his unseen new fiance.
Set in the early 2000's, Snowdrops introduces Platt--middle-aged and somewhat isolated in a hedonistic new city. He spends his days officiating vaguely defined business enterprises with fairly unsavory characters. He's just putting in his time, not asking questions, and enjoying (however reluctantly he paints it) the sins that the city's nightlife has to offer. His days start to brighten, however, as he rescues two young ladies from a mugging. They begin a friendship that becomes more intense. Soon Platt finds himself in a full-on romance with one of the girls. And his devotion is seemingly blind to the realities of the relationship. When they solicit his legal expertise in a real estate transaction involving their aunt, Platt acquiesces compliantly. But you know, from the first pages of Snowdrops, that this tale is headed to dark territory--the only mystery is how willingly Platt will become a part of that darkness.
Despite being referenced as somewhat of a psychological thriller (The Talented Mr. Ripley and Gorky Park are thrown in as comparison points by the publisher), Snowdrops is indisputably a character study. And, herein, (for me) lies the problem. As everything in Platt's confession is told through a rather gauzy reinterpretation, the supporting and peripheral characters can only be marginally defined through his eyes. And his utter complacency in his own life leads to a true lack of character development for everyone else in the novel. But that's okay and, in fact, I'm positive that was Miller's intent. And I love the idea, in theory. But that leaves Platt as the emotional center of Snowdrops and, unfortunately, that's where and why the book seemed so chilly and detached in the long run. Platt's confession lacks drama and conviction. He states the facts of what happens without seeming to be invested in anything.
Snowdrops, without a doubt in my mind, could have been a powerful and devastating tale of moral ambiguity. Platt's delusion while the events were transpiring might have been offset in his telling, but that's not what Miller wants to convey. Platt was seduced and intoxicated by his experience in Moscow and it was worth ANY price. That's clear--and that tone, which is fully intentional, kept me from ever really connecting with Platt. At the end, for me, Platt remains a curiously detached cipher (like the aforementioned Ripley, but Ripley's exploits were cunningly treacherous and he was an active participant in his own story). Snowdrops then seems like a novel with no real center--a passive protagonist who is still dishonest with himself. And, ultimately, that's why Moscow stands as the most intriguing aspect and most fully developed character that Miller's world presents. KGHarris, 1/11.
16 internautes sur 17 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
James L. Thane
- Publié sur Amazon.com
A British lawyer, Nicholas Platt, is working in Moscow in the hectic, free-for-all, Wild East days of the new Russia. By day he helps negotiate huge bank loans to facilitate Russia's economic development. These deals involve a number of shady characters and questionable assumptions, but Nick is caught up in the free-wheeling, anything goes climate, and whatever moral scruples he might have brought with him from the UK are quickly eroding. The same is true of his personal life as Nick gets caught up in exotic and often erotic lifestyle that flows from the rivers of cash that are flooding through the city.
One afternoon, Nick saves two attractive sisters from a purse snatcher and he is soon involved romantically with Masha, the older of the two. The women are very mysterious; even Masha reveals little of herself to Nick. But he is too caught up in the intimacy which he believes to be love. Then Masha and her sister, Katya, ask Nick to help their elderly aunt in the sale of her apartment and the purchase of a new one. It quickly becomes apparent to Nick that this deal may not be completely legitimate, but by now he is completely bedazzled by Masha, and his moral compass has long since lost the ability to find True North. He knows he is almost certainly heading for a fall, but like any true noir character, he's long past caring.
This is an excellent debut novel that paints a gripping portrait of the new Russia and the seduction of man who is powerless to resist its allure. It should appeal to those who like their novels dark and their characters flawed and in the grip of an attraction beyond their power to control.
53 internautes sur 71 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
This is a fast read, mainly because you won't want to put it down. The story is told by Nicholas Platt, a lawyer from England, presumably talking to his fiancee. He, like the author, worked in Moscow for a number of years, and so you get a rich description of the city, the restaurants, hotels, casinos, nightclubs, old building facades, subways and parks. The author was able to make me see the city as a whole, not just the picture of the Kremlin you get on posters. He also got across what it was like to live there for the generation that survived WWII and Stalin, and the younger people, under thirty, born after the fall of Communism. There is nothing that is not for sale and everyone has their hands out from beggars to government officials to taxi drivers to judges. In such an atmosphere of crime and corruption, I wondered that Nick would be so gullible as to take everyone at face value. I think anyone who is living and working in a foreign country should be doubly on their guard, because they are outsiders. People may think they know their way around, but they may be more at risk than a tourist or student who leaves in a short time (exception: Natalee Holloway). You can't be too trusting. What starts out as a bland story, but has enough foreshadowing to keep you reading, of course ends in total disaster. It's tightly written with interesting characters (Nick sure found them interesting, until he learned what they really were). For a first novel, I thought it was excellent.
7 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
A.D. Miller's first novel, Snowdrops, has been shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize, one of the British Commonwealth's most prestigious writing awards. It's a fine novel, telling a story that hasn't been told elsewhere: what Moscow looked like, felt like, how it did business and how it was criminal in the days just after the fall of the Soviet Union.
The first person narrator, Nick Platt, is a British lawyer who has lived in Moscow for four years at the time the story starts. The book is his explanation to his fiancée about his time in Russia:
"You're always saying that I never talk about my time in Moscow or about why I left. You're right, I've always made excuses, and soon you'll understand why. But you've gone on asking me, and for some reason lately I keep thinking about it - I can't stop myself. Perhaps it's because we're only three months away from "the big day," and that somehow seems a sort of reckoning. I feel like I need to tell someone about Russia, even if it hurts. Also that probably you should know, since we're going to make these promises to each other, and maybe even keep them. I think you have a right to know all of it. I thought it would be easier if I wrote it down. You won't have to make an effort to put a brave face on things, and I won't have to watch you."
Combined with the appearance of a corpse as the book opens - a "snowdrop," a body hidden by the snow that becomes obvious only in the spring thaw - this is perfect foreshadowing for what follows. The reader cannot read a single page without a sense of foreboding, wondering what happened and when, who the corpse is, what Nick did (is he a murderer?), until one is in the middle of a brutally cold Moscow winter with Nick, almost helplessly acting as an accomplice to a crime or two. Nick is not a nice man, it seems, but neither is he evil; he is simply weak.
The source of his weakness is Maria Kovalenko - Masha, as she is called by her friends. In a chance meeting in the subway, Nick rescues Masha and her sister, Katya, from a purse snatcher. Nick is immediately attracted to Masha, even though their meeting is brief. He begins wondering whether she is "the one" from his first sight of her. Why? That he can't seem to explain, though he admires her irony, he says: "She had an air that suggested she already knew how it would end, and almost wanted me to know that too." The fact that she is beautiful certainly helps.
Masha and Katya introduce Nick to their aunt, Tatiana Vladimirovna, an old widow who is a relic of the Soviet system down to her bowl-cut hair - and especially to her lovely apartment, given to her for services to the Fatherland. Tatiana is soon to retire, and is considering moving to a smaller apartment in the country. Masha and Katya ask Nick to help Tatiana with the papers necessary to the apartment swap; and that's where things start to get ugly.
There is a subplot involving a Cossack who seeks financing from Nick's banking and investment clients. Just as we can tell from the beginning that Nick's romance with Masha is doomed, we can see from the outset that the Cossack is basically a crime lord. Does Nick see this from the beginning, or is this so obvious only in retrospect? Does Nick really care? He refers to those days in Russia as a "gold rush," a time when Russia was wide open to both capitalism and crime and the two were indistinguishable. Everything is about money. Indeed, an acquaintance of Nick's, a reporter who fell in love with Russia and has never left, says to him, "In Russia, there are no business stories. And there are no politics stories. There are no love stories. There are only crime stories."
The frigid Moscow winter, as Miller describes it, is an analogy to the frigid principal characters in Snowdrops. This is a dark and depressing novel, a snapshot of a time and place so foreign that it is almost past understanding. The hapless Nick is in love not only with Masha, but with the energy of this new, lawless Russia. Nick can only partake of this energy passively, sadly; he has lost who he is with the melting snow. Nick is himself a "snowdrop."
One doesn't exactly enjoy Snowdrops; it is too dark for that. It combines the Russian bleakness of Anton Chekhov with the English bleakness of Thomas Hardy. But one must admire Miller's writing. The sights and especially the smells; the bite of the cold and the heat of the sauna; the food and the sex are all described sparingly, yet vividly. The plotting is strong, with the story opening up to meet the foreshadowing with precision. It is more assured than one expects a writer's first novel to be.
9 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
I was thoroughly fascinated by this book. I still can't figure out why I liked it so much since the pace of the story was slow for me, but the writing is so perfectly beautiful that it will mesmerize you. The story it written as a letter from an English lawyer named Nicholas to his fiance revealing an indiscretion that even he can't truly explain except to say that he was used by a woman that had bewitched him. Masha sails into Nicholas' life and convinces him to help complete the sale of some property for an older woman. The tale twists and turns between Russian mafia, unethical business men and the women who will steal more than just your credit card after a sexual romp.
Nick seems to be so intelligent and so fact conscious that it at first seems improbable that he could be used in a scam where Masha and Katya (possibly cousins) respond to his loneliness with taking him under their wing in order to help them illegally sell property that is owned by their "aunt". He explains to his girlfriend that he should have seen the scam coming, but couldn't believe that someone might actually take advantage of him. I found it very interesting to read the descriptions of corruption in Russia and how business is actually conducted. I don't know who to compare this story to since I don't think I have ever read anything like it before.