I noticed this book when it was shortlisted for this year's Man Booker prize, and was drawn to it by the description as "an intensely riveting psychological drama" My luck with award winners is a bit mixed, and I quite liked another of the short-listed books, Pigeon English so thought I would give this a go.
The book is narrated by Nicholas, in the form of a confession to his betrothed, relating the events of his last winter in Russia. He was working as a lawyer, with the transfer to Russia a potential shortcut to a partnership. A chance encounter with Masha and Katya sets him on a path to moral free fall, and sees him become no better than the many corrupt, hedonistic individuals he has previously been so quick to criticise.
Snowdrops introduces the reader to a bleak landscape, populated by gangsters and prostitutes, where strip clubs and young girls trying to snag themselves a rich husband are par for the course. I loved the descriptive power the author uses to evoke both the tourist landmarks that were familiar from TV and magazines, but also the residential and less salubrious areas. There is also an interesting amount of historical detail and the older Russian characters with their proverbs and stories from the past were very engaging.
There is so much to this book, for example we see various scams that range from the small scale to those involving State bodies. The narrative style made it feel very direct and as it was clear from the start that something had gone quite badly wrong, and as the details slowly revealed themselves, I found myself desperate to keep reading. It was interesting to see Nicholas as both victim and perpetrator, and consider how he had found himself in the position he did. I'm not sure whether I was chilled by the vividly depicted Russian winter or how far things went.
This is a brilliant tale of corruption and lust, and of moral decline on a personal and a much larger scale. What a debut.
Format: Kindle, bought by me
My Rating: 5*