Nick Platt is a British lawyer working in Moscow in the early 2000s - a place where the cascade of oil money, the tightening grip of the government, the jostling of the oligarchs, and the loosening of Soviet social mores have led to a culture where corruption, decadence, violence, and betrayal define everyday life. Nick doesn’t ask too many questions about the shady deals he works on - he’s too busy enjoying the exotic, surreally sinful nightlife Moscow has to offer. One day in the subway, he rescues two willowy sisters, Masha and Katya, from a would-be purse snatcher. Soon Nick, the seductive Masha, and long-limbed Katya are cruising the seamy glamour spots of the city. Nick begins to feel something for Masha that he is pleased to think is love. Then the sisters ask Nick to help their aged aunt, Tatiana, find a new apartment.
©2011 Andrew Miller (P)2011 W.F. Howes
While A. D. Miller does a nice job painting quirky scenes in early 2000's Russia, he relies too heavily on the same devices, high school poetry lines like "the city smelt of lust" just start to build up and eventually become repetitive. Also, nearly all of the characters are one dimensional and predictable and all are exoticized post-Soviet archetypes -- the young beautiful Russian woman using sex to manipulate a well-meaning, but naive Westerner, the mafia thug turned corporate enforcer. That combined with the narrator's bizarre attempt at pronouncing Russian words and accents made it borderline unlistenable. For someone who has lived in Russia (during this period) and speaks Russian, the whole thing was quite off-putting. I would be fine if the narrator simply said the words in an English accent, instead, he tried incredibly hard to pronounce them correctly -- sometimes failing spectacularly in the process -- but always saying the words and lines so uncomfortably and painfully that it was really jarring and broke with the flow of the listening experience. He seemed to think that Russian is a very nasally language (it's not) and that the Russian accent in English makes speakers sound like they are constantly asphyxiating. Masha, the love interest and second most important person in the book, always sounds like she is being strangled whenever she speaks. In voicing her dialogues in this way, the narrator literally choked the life out of the character. Maybe this book would be more bearable in analog form, but the overall tone of the writing is so condescending and colonial towards everything Russian that, as someone who lived there and continue to live in the region, I could not force myself more than about a quarter way through this one.
Can't recommend it, but I would be interested to hear differing opinions.
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