Tuesday, August 2, 2011


A.D. Miller

Atlantic UK, 2011

Nicholas Platt (Russian friends call him Kolya) is 38-year-old lawyer from London who works in the middle of the noughties in Moscow. Foreign bank, which employs Nicholas, gives loans to the oil business. In the metro Nick accidentally helps two Moscow girls to frighten away a handbag thief. Twenty-something girls, presented as sisters Masha and Katya, seeing that Nick is foreigner, find an interest in him, and Nick thinks that he’s falling in love with one of them, Masha, the older one. They exchange phone, and three weeks later, when Nick had almost forgotten about the strange meet, Katya calls Nick and designate a meeting at a restaurant. Girls tell that they came to the capital from Murmansk in search of happiness. After learning that Nick is not only foreigner but also a lawyer, although not specializing in real estate, the girls show more interest in Nick.

At the same time in mid-September, when Nick met Masha and Katya, the bank, which employs Nick, begins to work with a new client, known as the Cossack. He connected with Narodneft and wants to open his oil tower. The bank begins to prepare the documents.

During a meeting at the restaurant the girls tell Nick that they have family in Moscow - "Auntie" Tatiana Vladimirovna. A few days later the girls with Nick named visit Tatiana Vladimirovna, an elderly woman who survived the siege of Leningrad. The old woman wants to exchange her appartment at the center to the apartment in the new (but still unfinished) house in Butovo with an additional charge. In Butovo they meet with Stepan Mikhailovich, the owner of a house under construction. The developer shows an old woman her future apartment, promising that the house is about to be ready. Nick does not know yet where this story will lead him to.

On the one hand, "Snowdrops" is a predictable novel almost from the beginning, and it will open nothing new to a Russian reader. The author lived in Russia, and he knows Russia. There are many Russian transcribeded words, explanations about the Russian culture and Russian life style, which will be incomprehensible to a foreigner. The author does not take up the global height, does not construct a conspiracy theory, he builds the story on the example of the little man and on the example of a simple and banal story shows what modern Russia is. And even being a Russian, you still read this novel with great interest. You nod while reading, yes, this is so, yes, we live that way. And the story is indeed trivial: two girls trick an adult man for money, using him in addition to trick other people. And such stories happen in Moscow perhaps a few dozen per day.

But, as the hero of the novel Nick states, this story is not about Russia but about the person. Miller was able to give its hero's unique voice, melodic and calm. In this story, only he does not seem to understand what all this about. Fled from too prevailing life in England, Nick here, in Moscow, finds his happiness - short and deceived him. The novel is written from first person, but with the transition to the second - as if Nick addresses to his future wife, repents of all sins. It’s hard to believe that such a person could afford to drive his nose, and possibly even cause the death of an old woman, Miller made Nick too honest. But conscience still will not give rest to the end of Kolya's life. My snowdrop was me, said Nicholas by the end of the book already knowing what would happen is something inevitably bad, but it kills the conscience within. These half-year with Masha, Tatyana Vladimirovna, old neighbor is the best time of his life. And this is the worst, most shameful period in his life as well. Nicholas saw what Russians worth, but he thinks that he is no better and even worse. No matter what country you are in, you decide for yourself and answer for yourself. You self is in inside, not in outside.

This novel is worth your love even for its honesty.


  1. I really liked this novel a lot. It's surprising that most book bloggers disliked it. I'm glad to find someone else who appreciated it.

  2. I'd read two novels (that and the other one) about Russia in a row, and Snowdrops is much better than the other novel.

  3. I just reviewed this on my blog and posted a link to your review. It's interesting that as a Russian you thought the descriptions and plot were authentic and probable.

  4. Thank you for the review of one of my favorite books of the year. I read it months ago and it still haunts me.