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81 of 83 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Snowstorm in a Paperweight
I can understand why "Snowdrops" reached the Booker Shortlist, but also why some people think is should not have done so.

On the plus side, Miller puts his firsthand knowledge of Russia to good use by recreating the tasteless materialism and perpetual undercurrent of violence and sleaze in the raw capitalism following the collapse of Communism. He describes...
Published on 12 Nov 2011 by Antenna

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99 of 108 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Distinctly average - so why all the praise?
"Snowdrops" has come heralded by just about everybody, including many people on the Amazon sit. Although it's a good read, well-written and very informative about modern Moscow and all its moral uncertainties, I was left with the feeling that I'd read a very empty novel, in which nothing really seems to have happened. The narrator has committed a great ill and been sucked...
Published on 15 Feb 2011 by Frank The G


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81 of 83 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Snowstorm in a Paperweight, 12 Nov 2011
By 
Antenna (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Snowdrops (Paperback)
I can understand why "Snowdrops" reached the Booker Shortlist, but also why some people think is should not have done so.

On the plus side, Miller puts his firsthand knowledge of Russia to good use by recreating the tasteless materialism and perpetual undercurrent of violence and sleaze in the raw capitalism following the collapse of Communism. He describes well how individuals are inexorably contaminated by exposure to corruption, even if they think themselves to be morally superior, or immune.

In what turns out to be a psychological drama rather than a crime thiller, the narrator Nicholas, a thirty something commercial lawyer posted from London to Moscow, builds up tension as he is gets ever more entangled with the beautiful Masha and her younger "sister" Katya. Even though he suspects they are not what they seem, he suppresses any doubts and passively goes along with them in providing legal support for what is on the surface a simple property exchange without questioning their actions.

I like the introduction to a new vocabulary: "minigarch" for a rich Russian who isn't quite in the oligarch league, "krysha" for the shady character who provides protection and "fixes" things, or "elitny" to describe a smart restaurant or club. Miller is also good on all the different kinds of snow - from the light, damp October snow called "mokri sneg", through the deep heavy snow falling overnight "like a practical joke", the mounds of snow which make walking an obstacle, and finally the end-of-May snow... by which God lets the Russians know he hasn't finished with them yet". He brings home how the weather dominates Russians' lives through the course of the almost unbearably long and cold winters and the all too short hot summers.

There are some striking descriptions of places e.g. of the Moscow river, "the ice on the river was buckling and cracking, great plates of it rubbing and jostling each other, as the water shrugged it off, a vast snake sloughing of its skin."

Likewise, the sharp descriptions of people e.g. of a man who has allowed himself to become corrupted, " He was a short, pale man with thick hair, thick Soviet glasses and worried eyes. I suppose if you wanted to you could say he looked like a sort of compressed and stunted version of me."

On the down side, I wondered whether it was advisable to tell the reader quite so often that certain characters are liars or cheats, or to imply what is about to happen. It might have been more powerful to have left the reader to deduce all this, and only have Nicholas acknowledge his own culpability at the end. As it is, the climax of the book proves underwhelming, like a balloon that fails to burst with a startling bang because so much air has leaked out of it already.

Overall, this is an impressive "first novel". Much of the writing is good, as is the basic plot idea. However it is a quick, absorbing, mildly thought-provoking and moving read rather than the shattering emotional experience it could have been.
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145 of 156 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gorky Park for a post-Wall generation, 9 Feb 2011
By 
Melanie Garrett (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Snowdrops (Hardcover)
I first heard about this novel on The Review Show on BBC2 and was intrigued enough by the discussion to break my resolution about not buying any more books until (a) they were available for Sony eReader; and (b) I was ready to read them.But right from the exquisite jacket design, I was so gripped with this book that I decided a physical copy was in order. I picked up Sunday evening, and would have happily read it in one sitting if only life hadn't been so tortuously in the way. As first time novels go, this is an enormous achievement. The prose is dazzling and Moscow is evoked in a way that makes this the Gorky Park for the post-Wall generation.

The plot is entirely linear, and is essentially the inevitable forward motion of one man's failure to swerve any of the moral hazards he encounters while working as an expat lawyer in Russia. The narrator is very clear about what a flawed and cowardly creature he is, and yet it is a joy to read on because of the insights he offers into Russian culture and society.

As someone who has lived and worked as an expat in two European countries, I felt this book really nailed that heady sense of possibility that comes with the early stages of living abroad; the feeling that you can be who you want to be, run risks you never would normally take because you've stepped out of time for a bit.To me, this was neatly underlined by the notion that the text was effectively a long, confessional letter from the narrator to his fiancée. During discussion on The Review Show there were those who felt this narrative conceit didn't quite work, but personally I found it added real resonance to the novel. By quietly reminding us now and then that the narrator did actually want his wife-to-be to have a good opinion of him, and to accept him depraved past and all, we were reminded that the real stakes here are moral jeopardy. Depravity is only interesting if those engaging in it have their doubts, and so find their own behaviour wanting.

All in all, this a novel to thoroughly enjoy and admire, and I would have given this five stars if not for two things which began to wear thing by the end. Firstly, I'd have been happier if the two parallel strands of the plot had amplified each other more in some way, rather than simply being two different examples of the same character's moral indifference. Secondly, I found the prose relied a bit too heavily on unwarranted foreshadowing, which then tended not to deliver as big a bang as promised somehow. But overall, there is no shortage of things for the reader to be gripped by, and to admire.

I only hope A.D. Miller is out there somewhere right now putting the finishing touches on his next novel.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book, 26 Oct 2011
This review is from: Snowdrops (Paperback)
I'm glad A Sense of an Ending won this year's Booker, but I can see why this was a contender. It contains a lot about what it's like for an expat to live in Moscow, and it tells a good story, but most of all it's a psychological story -- the slow unveiling of just what an inadequate, unlovable man the protagonist is. There were times when the pain of what was so obviously going to happen made me put the book down for a moment to catch my breath. The form of the book is an account by him to his fiancee explaining what happened to him in Russia, and I have to say I hope she gave him back the ring when she read it. Days after I finished reading it the story and the characters are still with me; this may be the reader's equivalent of the portrait's eyes following you round the room, but for me it's one of the tests of a really good read.
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99 of 108 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Distinctly average - so why all the praise?, 15 Feb 2011
This review is from: Snowdrops (Hardcover)
"Snowdrops" has come heralded by just about everybody, including many people on the Amazon sit. Although it's a good read, well-written and very informative about modern Moscow and all its moral uncertainties, I was left with the feeling that I'd read a very empty novel, in which nothing really seems to have happened. The narrator has committed a great ill and been sucked into a moral vaccuum, almost willingly, and the book forms his confession to the girl that he is now going to marry, having returned to England and left Russia (and part of himself) behind. The problem was that, even though he says he's being bewitched by money and power and sex and the temptation to just opt out of morality, it never really FELT like that. It was all just a little bit flat.

A book I could definitely take or leave - I wonder what all the fuss is about!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Short, chilling take on Moscow, 21 Jun 2012
By 
Mr. Ja McLaughlin "Tony mac1" (Dunfermline) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Snowdrops (Paperback)
Slick, well-written cautionary tale of decadent, corrupt modern Russia and a British expat out of his depth. Can he really be as gullible as he appears? Yes, some people can be and besides the protagonist both likes it and wants it. He's a bit of a well-paid failure, desperate to find some excitement before middle-age fully claims him.

This short, snappy book offers no great surprises and you could say its twists are telegraphed, but then again its not a mystery or a thriller, even though its packaged as one. Its a study of characters, cultures, the allure of dark places and the shameless immorality of the modern materialistic world. It paints Moscow as a city irredemably corrupt, heartless and on the make, nomatter what political colours it flies under.

Worth reading if actually a bit depressing and not one for anyone about to take a holiday in Moscow!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Snowdrop (n): A corpse that lies buried or hidden in the winter snows, emerging only in the thaw., 23 Oct 2011
By 
Denise4891 (Cheshire) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Snowdrops (Paperback)
The buried corpse referred to in the tile is only a subplot in this sharp and at times very funny portrayal of the darker aspects of life in Moscow after the fall of `the Evil Empire'.

The city is awash with new (mostly dodgy) money, with newly minted Oligarchs flaunting their flash cars and even flashier women, and into this caldron of corruption stumbles our anti-hero, British corporate lawyer Nick Platt. Nick comes across as a bit of an innocent abroad; although he's in his late 30s he's never had a serious long-term relationship and so a certain type of newly-liberated Russian woman sees him as an easy target. The story is told in the form of a confession written by Nick, now back in the UK, to his fiance shortly before their wedding. There's a real sense of impending doom as he relates how he came to be drawn into the murky world of property scams and corrupt business deals.

Debut novelist Miller doesn't waste his words but still has a wonderfully descriptive turn of phrase - both the grim (but strangely beautiful) snowy Moscow setting and the visual peculiarities of his characters are vividly portrayed (one is described as having "a face like a perplexed potato").

On that note I have to say that at times the characters did feel a little cliched - the women are either hefty shotputter-types or gold-digging would-be prostitutes and the men all seem to be members of the Russian mafia - but as the saying goes "it's a cliché that most clichés are true"! AD Miller worked in Moscow for three years as a correspondent for The Economist and has said in interviews that he never intended 'Snowdrops' to be seen as a true depiction of modern Russian life. With this in mind, I enjoyed it as a very entertaining, perceptive and darkly funny read.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well observed but not enough drama ..., 12 Aug 2011
By 
Annabel Gaskell "gaskella2" (Nr Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Snowdrops (Hardcover)
I bought this debut novel at the beginning of the year. It had a lot of interest even before it was Booker longlisted. Trying to ignore the hype, I dove in...

Snowdrops is a tale of an Englishman abroad. Nick is a thirty-something lawyer working in Moscow, waiting for a hinted at partnership back home. One day, he stops a mugger from stealing a beautiful woman's bag in the Metro. She is Masha, and soon they begin a relationship. He meets Masha's younger 'sister' Katya, and their old 'aunt' - everything seems to be going well between them, Masha stays over regularly and he hopes she could be `the one'. The sisters enlist his help as a lawyer to do the conveyancing (Moscow style) on selling their aunt's flat and moving her to a nice new one in the suburbs. Meanwhile, in his day job, Nicholas works on the legal side of corporate finance - always a risky business in Russia. His firm is helping the banks finance a big deal for a new Arctic oil terminal being built by the `Cossack'.

You can sense right from the start that his home and work lives will go up the creek eventually - nothing is quite how it seems. This is telegraphed by the way, now back in England, the novel is written as a confession to his new fiancée - he feels the need to come clean about what happened in Moscow that winter; after reading this, surely there will not be a future Mrs. Nikolai, as Masha calls him, is just not hard enough to survive long term in such a sleazy, corrupt and cutthroat world. He's naive, too passive and not capable of thinking like a Russian. His neighbour Oleg warns him. His best friend Steve, a journalist who has gone native, warns him. He takes no notice until it's too late.

I did enjoy this well-observed novel, but was also disappointed. Maybe having read other books like Le Carré's The Russia House and Graham Greene's The Quiet American, I was expecting a bit more intrigue, a bit more real jeopardy. It all seemed a bit low rent for a `psychological drama' as the blurb put it. Instead the real star of the book is Russia itself - from the restaurants and nightclubs to the snow filled streets and freezing weather, and everywhere oozing corruption. Will it make the 2011 Man Booker shortlist? I don't think so. Snowdrops is a fine debut novel, but not quite special enough for me. (3.5 stars)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed views, 14 April 2012
By 
Jonathan Clark "Great Black Hawk" (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Snowdrops (Paperback)
I picked this up without reading the hype - sorry publicity! - and it is only now that I realise that this was nominated for the Man Booker Prize last year.
It is an interesting debut novel which features Nick Platt a Lawyer from Luton who ends up in Moscow and narrates his experiences there.
Snowdrops is the term used for dead bodies which emerge when the weather becomes warmer, and the snow melts, although this doesn't really have much bearing on the story IMO.
The story seems to be about a guy approaching middle age who gets sucked into the Mosocw way of life, or should I say the Moscow lowlife which, without sounding judgemental, is pretty much what you might expect.
So you are fed a diet of corruption, political shenanigans, prostitution and all that goes with this territory.
It's quite a deprerssing tale, but A.D.Miller uses his experience of Russia well and his descriptive narrative of Russia is extremely good.
It's not a long book so I raced through it but it was like a meal which offers much much but afterwards you feel slightly let down or unsatiated.
I knew what was going to happen well in advance of the final few chapters so it didn't fire my imagination.
Describing this would be a spoiler so I won't!
Oddly, given the above, I did enjoy this book but more from the perspective that it seemed like a "real" story and none of the characters were ridiculous apart maybe from the Cossack.
AD Miller has talent and it will be interesting to see what his next offering provides.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Descriptive but ultimately disappointing, 5 April 2012
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An ok thriller with some interesting characters but I was left a little flat at the end. Never having been to Moscow,(and not sure after this if I want to!) I don't doubt that the descriptions were accurate but sometimes I wished the author had spent a little more time fleshing out the characters and a little less time on the location detail. The ending is never in doubt, but I didn't care enough about the narrator to be shocked by his ultimate corruption and betrayal. An easy read, but ultimately disappointing.
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112 of 127 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A.D.Miller--Snowdrops, 30 Dec 2010
By 
Simon Clarke (Hackney, London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Snowdrops (Hardcover)
A.D.Miller's first novel,and set in Moscow,is a very assured
and thoroughly enjoyable debut.
The novel is written as an address by Nicholas-to his future
wife,detailing the events of his last winter in Russia.
Nicholas is a lawyer in his 30's working on large corporate
deals in Moscow.His rather drifting life changes with a chance
meeting with an attractive young Russian female,Masha.During
their time together Nicholas becomes enmeshed in the endemic
deeply embedded corruption,from which it seems impossible to
escape.
Very entertainingly written ,with wry and often understated humour,
the book not only gives an interesting take on Moscow,but also
skillfully shows how the fundamentally decent Nicholas almost
inevitably becomes part of the prevailing amorality.
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Snowdrops
Snowdrops by A. D. Miller (Paperback - 1 Sep 2011)
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