Book blogs are buzzing with chat about the Man Booker prize for fiction and there has been quite a bit of controversy about the shortlisted novels. I can’t help being drawn in by the discussion with the result that I buy many more novels than might otherwise have caught my eye.
This week, I opted to read A.D. Miller’s novel, Snowdrops. Miller was formerly the Moscow correspondent of The Economist. He has lived in Russia, a place I haven’t even visited, so I am far from qualified to comment on this book. But I was drawn to it by the prospect of intrigue and excitement having heard some discussion of it on radio. When I started to read, I couldn’t initially get past disliking the narrator, Nicholas Platt, a somewhat sleazy British lawyer working in Moscow who naively becomes involved with the amoral Masha and her somewhat suspicious sister, Katya. The two women are stereotypes reminiscent of the Bond movies who successfully lure Platt into their dark scheme.
Then, somewhere around chapter 13, Snowdrops switches into an exciting read as the plot thickens, the pace quickens, and for the next couple of chapters it becomes a page turner. From chapter 14 on, it’s a better book even though the Bond movie feel persists throughout. There is plenty of action but the characters lack depth and, with the possible exception of the elderly Tatiana Vladimirovna, are neither sympathetic nor likeable.
I’m still somewhat surprised that Snowdrops made it on to the Booker shortlist especially as to my mind much better novels were omitted this year. Snowdrops is certainly readable but I think the first chapters, in particular, would have benefited from a bit more polishing before publication.