Snowdrops in Gorky Park


This short novel is written by the former Moscow correspondent of the Economist newspaper, which is how I learned of it. It wants to be Gorky Park, but isn’t. Protagonist Nick is a U.K. lawyer working real estate deals in Moscow right after the fall of the Soviet Union. He meets a couple of beautiful and seductive sisters who end up scamming him. That would be a spoiler, except anybody could see it coming in the first quarter of the novel. The rest of the story unfolds slowly, the only suspense being the details of the scam. Nobody in their right mind, especially a lawyer, would behave as Nick does, so the character isn’t interesting and the plot is given away too early.

There are some good and even haunting descriptions of Moscow during that time period, especially the winters and the way people ate, lived, dressed, and so on, but it’s not enough to be compelling (the way Flaubert’s description of 1850’s France was, for example, in Madame Bovary).

Structurally, the whole novel is supposed to be a confessional, a letter Nick writes to his fiancée, who never appears.  That technique can be useful when there is some artistic reason for it, but in this case, a confessional only succeeds in distancing the main character from the reader. Unaccountably, the book was shortlisted for the 2011 Man-Booker.

Miller, A.D. (2011). Snowdrops. New York: Doubleday (262 pp.)

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