Short listed for the booker prize 2011. I'm not sure what I expected from this but it wasn't what I thought it would be. Very good at creating a tawdry, cheap and corrupt atmosphere, this novel makes you feel like you've sullied your hands just by picking it up.
The books starts by the narrator, Nick, beginning a 'letter' (the book) to someone. You don't know who the someone is, but suspect a woman, and none of the details linking Nick to this woman are known until well over half way through the book. However most of the details of Nick's story involves a Russian woman that's he falls madly in love with, and he into great detail about this affair, which you can't help but feel is unwise if he is writing to another woman. Who is the mystery woman, and why do feel that the Russian woman is a bad 'un even though you can't put your finger on why?
I did feel I wanted to shake Nick. He is a slave to parts of is anatomy which don't have a brain. He sort of knows he is getting into a bad situation, but he doesn't really care- as if he is slightly bored, and quite likes being naughty. The fatalism of Nick and his anatomy is quite annoying at times. He appears to have no will at all, but claims to have one of the happiest days/nights of his life with his Russain lady; he closes his eyes to the obvious manipulation of his Russain companions, and the fear around him. You know there will be tears before bedtime. By the end of the book I despised him.
I did like the description of the descent into Russian winter. The cold is dangerous, beautiful, and mirrors Nick's diminishing sense of free will.