Snowdrops by A. D. Miller
- An early-flowering bulbous plant, having a white pendent flower.
- Moscow slang. A corpse that lies buried or hidden in the winter snows, emerging only in the thaw.
Nick Platt needs to make a confession to his fiancé. Snowdrops is that confession. A.D. MIller’s Booker Prize-nominated first novel is the small, intimate story of a man, who, while working as an expat lawyer in Moscow in the early 2000s, makes a bad habit of looking the other way when a pair of beguiling sisters (who aren’t really sisters) lure him into a simple plan to help an old auntie exchange her lavish Moscow apartment for a newly built flat in the country.
As they say, hindsight is 20/20, and any reader will quickly intuit that Platt is being played by Masha and Katya when he rescues them from a purse snatcher on the subway and Masha slowly reels him in with false affection and dreams of a future together. Everything Nick hears from these two sounds stitched together, but he’s so smitten he’s happy to ignore his conscience as long as Masha is willing to continue the charade of never-ending affection.
Miller was the Russia correspondent for The Economist in those days, so his observations of the fast and loose deals and corruption rampant during the time feel authentically smarmy. The small story of Nick’s entanglement with the girls plays nicely against the eyes wide shut corporate oil debacle he’s working on at his law firm during his work days. Nick just seems to be one of a million dupes frantically hoping to find some personal happiness and success in a country where corruption and malfeasance are so rife that he honestly believes he is doing the right thing to help perpetrate a fraud because it will help an old lady—he even throws in $25K of his own money.
Snowdrops was a fun read. Even knowing things were going to twist and fall slowly off a cliff just made it more exciting as I got to the end. It’s funny, I don’t often notice the physical qualities of a book I’m reading, (unless it’s a cheap paperback that the pages are falling out of) but I really loved the small size of the hardcover I read; it created a tangible connection to the story for me and helped support the confessional tone of the writing. I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it as much if the physical characteristic of the book hadn’t felt so aligned with the story, so kudos to the book designer/publisher for that decision, even if it was unintended.