Another non review, this time A D Miller’s Snowdrops

This is the synopsis of a book that judges of this year’s Man Booker Prize for fiction selected for the Prize’s shortlist

“… a riveting psychological drama that unfolds over the course of one Moscow winter, as a young Englishman’s moral compass is spun by the seductive opportunities revealed to him by a new Russia: a land of hedonism and desperation, corruption and kindness, magical dachas and debauched nightclubs; a place where secrets – and corpses – come to light only when the deep snows start to thaw… Snowdrops is a chilling story of love and moral freefall: of the corruption, by a corrupt society, of a corruptible man. It is taut, intense and has a momentum as irresistible to the reader as the moral danger that first enchants, then threatens to overwhelm, its narrator.”

Here’s a synopsis of the book I read

…a predictable drama that appears to have been borrowed from the set of whatever local version of Neighbours they have in Russia that unfolds over the course of one Moscow winter (they got that bit right), as a nearly middle-aged Englishman sets his moral compass aside with nary a thought because a pretty girl offered to sleep with him. There are quite a few train rides, and a visit to a strip club (or maybe two, I forget) and lots of snow. Old people do not fare well. Snowdrops is a bland story of mild lust in a moral vacuum. It is dull, languorous and has the momentum of a somnambulant tortoise which threatens to bore the reader into a coma.

On the bright side the book I read was mercifully short, the writing itself was rather good (the problem being more that there was nothing of much interest written about) and it did deliver an atmospheric sense of place (though my cynical self says this bordered on the caricature at some points but having never been I’ll give the author the benefit of the doubt).

It wasn’t a ‘literary thriller’, it didn’t have ‘a sense of foreboding’ (the outcome was blindingly obvious from the outset), it wasn’t ‘engrossing’ or ‘powerful’ or any of the things other people have written about it.

And while we’re on the subject of things other people have written why in the name of all that is sacred would anyone think the phrase ‘…reads like Graham Greene on steroids’ (7th blurb on that page) is a selling point for a novel? I can’t recall when I’ve ever read a more inane comment on literature. Given the context of the phrase it would seem the reviewer meant it as a compliment but how? And why? Among the effects of steriod use are aggression, hypomania, suicidal tendencies and temporary infertility. How would Graham Greene be improved by any of that?

Yes, yes I’ve digressed. Sorry. In short, I read a book about a mildly interesting though self-deluded chap surrounded by caricatures which completely failed to capture my imagination for even a nanosecond. I can’t for the life of me see what the Booker judges saw in it but there’s nothing new in that.


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13 Responses to Another non review, this time A D Miller’s Snowdrops

  1. Bernadette – Brilliant post! What a stark difference between the published synopsis and the real story. I wonder sometimes how certain books catch the attention of judges, too. Thanks for your candid view of the book (even if it wasn’t exactly a review)……


  2. Sarah says:

    I’m in complete agreement, Plot borrowed from Russian Neighbours is a good one.


  3. Maxine says:

    Stella Rimington is chair of the Booker judges this time round and writes spy thrillers (since leaving as head of MI some number). I have never been tempted to read one of her books as the aforementioned GG and John Le Carre have said it all in terms of spy novels, pretty much. But I assume SR and the fact this book is shortlisted are connected. Also the author is a well-connected journalist, and it is all a little writer/reviewer/awardwinner clique in the “literary” media.

    When I read this book I thought it neither a good literary novel, nor a good crime novel. In Australia, when a genre novel was shortlisted, and indeed won, your equivalent to the Booker (the Miles Franklin), at least it was a jolly good novel (Truth by Peter Temple). I can think of about 20 crime novels published in the time-period that are easily better than the leaden Snowdrops. I don’t read much literary fiction, but if this is an example of the best of it, heaven help us.


  4. Barbara says:

    Like you, I don’t know what judges are thinking when they select prize winners these days. It always makes me suspect there are some under the table bribes going on. The book sounds absolutely awful and I have no idea at all what “Graham Greene on steroids” means or why someone would think it would tempt me to buy the book. Thank you for an honest review.


  5. Awesome non-review! I was going to read this but I feel like I don’t really need (or want) to now!


  6. Thank you – I wondered about reading this and now I know it would be a waste of my time.


  7. JoV says:

    I have no clue what the judges’ criteria are and I’m not reading any of the shortlist this year. Graham Greene is my favourite authors and I have 4 of his books and cannot imagine what it will be if he is writing under steroids. Inane, I believe Graham Greene is much more entertaining than this! Thanks for the review.


  8. Tim says:

    Well at least there’s one good thing come out of this book …. your review!! Always a pleasure to read your reviews, Bernadette.


  9. The readers just didn´t realize the point about Graham Greene on steroids wasn´t meant as a recommendation 😉

    Lovely review; funny that they are often much better than the books.


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  11. CoorceVieno says:

    Re-twit you post: to my
    @qfiieogr twitter


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