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.