Monday, March 5, 2012

Snowdrops / A. D. Miller

(Warning: This is a more or less polemic blurb without any claim to thoroughness or completeness.)

Finished reading Snowdrops this weekend, a novel about a British lawyer who becomes involved in fraud in his work for an investment bank, and, in private, in a case of apartment fraud as a consequence of falling in love with a mysterious Russian woman.

So what's true about the hype?
'Totally gripping' – more ho-hum than gripping. Took me numerous sessions to read and is certainly not one of the potboilers you cannot put down.
'Disturbing and dazzling' – draws a disturbing picture of Russia and Moscow. Greatly reduced my readiness to ever go there.
'Electrifying ... Leaves you stunned and addicted' – That opinion, pardon my bluntness, is a striking example of pure bullshit. Seems more appropriate to LSD, heroin or some other drug than anything written.

As it says on the back cover, there is some similarity to the writing of Graham Greene, but more along the lines of imitation. Neither the writing itself nor the plot are that good. There is that Greene-like feeling of guilt, but there's so much insistence on building it that it becomes annoying. The confessionality (the story is told as a confession to the hero's fiancée) is also reminiscent of Greene, except that it never comes alive, so to speak, because the person the story is told to remains nondescript, making the whole device seem irrelevant.

Then there's that constant puerile harping about how awful it is to be older than thirty. (I believe a lot of people have successfully moved on even into their forties or fifties.) And the annoying premonition building (along the lines of 'I should have known better then that ...', 'Had I not ...') that seems to come straight out of a fiction writing workshop manual. And then there are all the attempts to humanize inanimate objects with adjectives that mostly didn't do much for me. That's the literary touch, I suppose.

A third plot line – pretty much unrelated to the other two – is about the body of an old man found in a rusty orange Zhiguli (mentioned umpteen times in the course of the novel to make it absolutely clear that it has to have some significance).

You may rest in peace, Graham. This ain't no serious competition for The Third Man or The Quiet American.

– Leonard "Won't Write Reviews" Blumfeld

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