Corruption, deceit and lies
I always thought snowdrops were those lovely little white flowers but it appears it is also a moscow slang term. “A corpse that lies buried or hidden in the winter snows, emerging only in the thaw.” Not quite as sweet!
This book was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for 2011 and is a debut novel for the author. He worked as a correspondent for The Economist in Moscow from 2004 to 2007, so he skillfully captures the “feel” and atmosphere for Moscow and he knows what the expatriate experience is all about . He is spot on with his descriptions and details.
The main character in the novel is Nick Platt, an English lawyer living in Moscow during the Russian oil boom. He befriends 2 young girls, Masha and Katya. Nick begins to believe that he is falling in love with Masha but all is not what it seems. Along the way he makes many mistakes, gets made a fool of, gets caught up in a scam and in the end the novel his last words are…”I miss Masha. I miss Moscow”. So it is debateable that he learnt anything along the way.
It’s a fast paced novel about corruption, deceit and lies in a decandent time in post-Second World War Russian history. I found the novel engrossing and it reminded me of the debauchery and duplicity in Christopher Isherwood’s “Goodbye to Berlin“.
A good novel for a book club discussion. Five quick questions to think about.
Is just a good thriller, or is it a story of Nick Platt’s moral degradation?
Is he well and truely duped by Mahsa and Katya or is his lack of “backbone” as much to blame for the mess that he finds himself him?
Is it a novel about corruption, set in a corrupt society with a young corruptable man as it’s core?
Or is it a love story about a lonely young man in Russia looking for love?
And finally. Do you think Nick is really sorry for what he did? Does he understand how serious it was?