SNOWLEG

Nicholas Shakespeare, Author . Harcourt $25 (386p) ISBN 978-0-15-101146-9

The personal and the political clash in this sometimes haunting but often baffling novel about Peter Hithersay, an English teenager, and his one-night encounter with an East German girl, known to him only by her nickname, "Snowleg," in 1983. She begs him to take her back to the West; for reasons he can't quite fathom himself—and which will haunt him for the next 20 years—he refuses (indeed, he publicly rejects her) and loses his chance at what appears to be love at first sight. Peter may have been re-creating his mother's experience: she had a brief affair with an East German (Peter was the result) and never saw him again, and Peter's trip behind the Iron Curtain is driven by the desire to learn something, anything, about his German father. Later, he essentially gives up England and his affable family, becoming a doctor in West Germany, where he strives (mostly unsuccessfully) to build meaningful relationships of his own. The strongest narrative thread, Peter's search for Snowleg, is compelling enough, but accounts for a small fraction of the plot. Shakespeare (The Dancer Upstairs ) deftly captures both the paranoia and the material and cultural poverty of East Germany as well as Peter's existential struggle to find his place in the world, but the haphazard story line fails to compel. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 09/06/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
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FORMATS
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-09-946609-3
Hardcover - 400 pages - 978-1-84343-158-9
Paperback - 387 pages - 978-0-15-603046-5
Open Ebook - 400 pages - 978-1-4070-7369-9
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