Snowleg by Nicholas Shakespeare

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Synopsis

When sixteen-year-old Peter Hithersay discovers that his father is not the affable Englishman married to his mother, but an East German political dissident with whom she had a brief affair in the 1960s, he abandons Winchester for Leipzig in search of his past. There he encounters a lovely young woman who is beginning to question the way her society is governed, and Peter falls immediately in love with her. But their romance ends quickly and badly when his scheme to smuggle her out of the country goes awry, and he returns to England, only to spend the next nineteen years in a desultory career and a series of perfunctory affairs.

When the two Germanies are reunited, Peter goes back to look for the woman he has never stopped loving. But the only clues he has are the nickname he gave her, Snowleg, and the relentless archives of the state that drove them apart.

Nicholas Shakespeare is on his home ground in this beautifully written, informed, sensitive story about the unassailable dictates of love and politics.



 

About Nicholas Shakespeare

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Nicholas Shakespeare is the author of The Dancer Upstairs, selected by the American Libraries Association as the best novel of 1997, and an acclaimed biography of Bruce Chatwin. Named one of Granta magazine's "Best Young British Novelists" in 1993, Shakespeare lives in Wiltshire, England.
 
Published October 4, 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 400 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Literature & Fiction, Biographies & Memoirs. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Snowleg

Kirkus Reviews

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A chance deathbed encounter with Snowleg’s grandmother prompts a frantic return to Leipzig and a search among Stasi files, a bit of neo-Nazi violence, near-gunplay, and, in the requisite reunion, Snowleg herself: married with children, then divorced, she’s been broken by Peter’s betrayal, though ...

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The Guardian

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"Contemporary history" is a kind of oxymoron.

Nov 19 2005 | Read Full Review of Snowleg

The Guardian

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Germany was now one Fatherland, but in 1994 most West Germans I knew had not seized the chance to visit the old GDR, and were frankly uninterested in the lives or fates of their East German cousins.

Dec 03 2005 | Read Full Review of Snowleg

The Guardian

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For all its sophistication - its time-shifts, its changing viewpoints, its knowing allusions to Romance narratives - there is no disguising the reliance of Nicholas Shakespeare's novel on one of the oldest of tricks: coincidence.

Nov 26 2005 | Read Full Review of Snowleg

The Guardian

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It may not be a representative sample of likely responses, but two German contributors to the Book Club discussion of Shakespeare's novel confirmed his impression that his subject matter was ignored by German novelists.

Dec 10 2005 | Read Full Review of Snowleg

The Guardian

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Occasionally, the loud engine of the book - Peter's search for the truth - threatens to drown out the writing, and Shakespeare's sentences can fall flat or fumble for cliché, but the sureness of his narrative timing is never in question.

Jan 25 2004 | Read Full Review of Snowleg

The Guardian

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Snowleg by Nicholas Shakespeare 387pp, Harvill, £16.99 Actually, it's Snjólaug: an Icelandic name that sounds like "Snowleg" to an English ear.

Jan 31 2004 | Read Full Review of Snowleg

Publishers Weekly

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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.

Sep 06 2004 | Read Full Review of Snowleg

The Sydney Morning Herald

This exploration is a direct counterpoint to Peter's emotional state and Shakespeare makes it clear that it's not all one-way traffic.

Mar 13 2004 | Read Full Review of Snowleg

ReadySteadyBook

On Peter Hithersay’s sixteenth birthday his mother tells him the secret she’s been holding onto for his entire life, that the man he has always believed to be his father is not, in fact, related to him.

Jan 06 2005 | Read Full Review of Snowleg

Reader Rating for Snowleg
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