A Snowdrop is Moscow slang for a corpse that lies buried or hidden in the winter snows, emerging only in the thaw. It is the discovery of one of these snowdrops that marks the beginning of the novel.
The story is told in the first person by Nicholas and is a pre wedding confession to his wife to be of his time working and living in Moscow, something he has previously never spoken to her about. We don’t get to hear from his fiance but I couldn’t help feeling sorry for her as the story progressed.
This is an edgy, contemporary read, complete with all those images of modern day Russia that have almost become cliches; beautiful young girls, a babushka, dodgy business deals and nothing that money can’t buy. As an expat lawyer in his late thirties, a little lost and vulnerable, Nicholas was ripe for the picking and candidly admits that he turned a blind eye to the obvious. The best thing about the book for me was the way the author brought the city to life and the reminder of the hard daily slog that life for the average person still is. Like any city that is home to millions of people, space and property are at a premium and the author’s descriptions of the soviet era housing blocks complete with heating still controlled by the authorities felt very authentic. He had lived in Moscow for several years and obviously knows the city well.
I wasn’t sure at first about the book. First person narratives are not my favourite and there was a lot of over the top (to me) descriptions of just about everything. It all seemed a bit forced and I couldn’t tell if that was just the character or the author’s writing style. I also found it a bit cyncial. But.. it was a page turner and I wanted to keep reading. It grew on me and while the plot/characters were never that enticing the overall feel of it was and I ended up quite liking it. It is a story really about Russia. In a different setting there wouldn’t have been a story. The last paragraph put it all in perspective and packed a good punch.
273 pages, 2011