Okay – I’m rereading this for a different reason. The first time I read it as a crime novel and I was disappointed. However, in the Booker Prize Reading Group we didn’t all agree with that reading and I’m checking to see if there’s another way to look at the book. In my first reading I listened to Kevin Howard’s magnificent performance – I wonder if it colored my view – Nick sounded like such a nice and sincere guy – a very reliable narrator. Was he really?
This time I’m reading the Kindle version because I want to check Nick ‘s first person character more closely – he’s writing a letter to his fiance and is offering her an out as well as plenty of reason. Perhaps he wants out himself and is exaggerating a few things. ???
So, is Nick corrupt from the beginning before he left for Moscow or was he simply ready and willing? How needy was he to fall for someone like Masha? How naive was he really? Is what he did really “that bad”?
"Snowdrop. 1. An early-flowering bulbous plant, having a white pendent flower. 2. Moscow slang. A corpse that lies buried or hidden in the winter snows, emerging only in the thaw" (Kindle Locations 31-32).
In the Prologue Nick finds a corpse being revealed through the melting snow. The corpse is that of an apparently homeless woman who was murdered with a stone or a hammer.
Snowdrops: the badness that is already there, always there and very close, but which you somehow manage not to see. The sins the winter hides, sometimes forever. (Kindle Locations 55-56)
This book has impacted me very visually, like a movie. The characters are well drawn, the plot is complex, the tension increases nicely and the structure works well with the psychological theme but the most impressive thing to me was the description and interweaving of the city of Moscow – the architecture, the people, the history.
Nick ? is a lawyer from England who deals with banks and international law – he has been assigned to Moscow for four years and he loves it, in all it’s post-communist decadence and disregard for any law. Then one day in the Metro he helps a woman, Masha, who is having her purse snatched. Nick falls in love almost on the spot. Masha however remains mysterious and Nick becomes “addicted” to her.
The book is NOT a thriller – it’s a subtle exploration of the psychology of a man who does things he says he would never do, but …
Nick is ignorant but as the snow melts his eyes open and even after more is revealed more is to come.
I’ve not even talked about the theme of history – Russia’s history of the Revolution, WWII, Stalin, and the thugs, the post-communist era – these are set in contrast with each other but also with the pre-Communist days of the Tsars in terms of the brilliant architecture – all the architecture is highlighted. Moscow past and present may be the main character in this book.