91 of 101 people found the following review helpful
Love And Other Corruptions: A Cold And Remote Tale Of Russian Intrigue,
This review is from: Snowdrops: A Novel (Hardcover)
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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.
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 4, 2011 9:39:15 AM PDT
Jason Kirkfield says:
(And now it should be viewable even if it "disappears" again.)
In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2011 11:31:17 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 4, 2011 11:31:49 AM PDT
M. A. Filippelli says:
I agree with Jason, excellent review.
In reply to an earlier post on May 6, 2011 11:45:17 AM PDT
J. Prather says:
Ditto. Hope it hangs around
Posted on May 8, 2011 12:38:23 PM PDT
Demarius Chrite says:
This review is very well-written, and I for one would be pretty upset if it were mine and had been taken down. Good job.
In reply to an earlier post on May 19, 2011 4:02:43 PM PDT
Brent Butler says:
Agreed. Intelligent and fair minded sounding review. Nice job.
Posted on Jun 8, 2011 8:27:07 AM PDT
T. ross says:
Nice to see they put it back. Amazon is really starting to loose my trust pretty soon they will loose my business if they dont straighten up and respect there customers reviews and keep the fake ones out.
Posted on Oct 7, 2011 5:35:34 PM PDT
Holly Merrigan says:
Great review and I agree that the book seems chilly and detached; however, Russia and Russians tend to be this way because they are so untrusting. And it seemed to me that the power of Russia/Moscow is that it could turn most anyone into a chilly and detached person; thus, the horrifying impact of his confession. It is as if he is merely telling a story, which he is.
Posted on Oct 28, 2011 6:46:20 AM PDT
J. Kunkel says:
Having recently returned from Moscow I eagerly began Snowdrop and was hooked from page one. The descriptions of the city and lifestyle are vivid and fascinating. Nicholas Platt, as the story develops, is anything but. He is a weak man, blind to the obvious foibles in front of him, dispite the blunt hints and open comments he receives. By the end of the book I disliked all of the characters and had little sympathy for the protagonist. The strength of the descriptions of Moscow could not override the cold and lifeless characters.
Posted on Nov 4, 2011 3:58:54 AM PDT
Brian Johnson says:
Largely agree. And the notion that Moscow was the real character is an excellent observation. My main reservation - about a book that gave me deep enjoyment - was that I couldn't believe Platt could be SO naive as to give a great wad of money to basically a couple of smart hookers. BJ
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