In London, years after serving in Kiev during the 2004 Orange Revolution, former diplomat Simon Davey spots Olesya, the person he holds responsible for his downfall. Davey's story is one of corruption, betrayals, and where power really lies in the 21st century.
The story Miller tells in Independence Square is a double helix of espionage and regret ... a tense, private tale set against the Orange Revolution but evoking the whole complicated enterprise of spycraft and nation-building.Short but complex ... He’s particularly acerbic when portraying Western journalists ... Miller spins the chaotic exuberance ... it’s still harrowing to see the way power radiates through nations and lives, raising some, crushing others.
At its best, Independence Square made me think of a 21st-century Graham Greene novel, an absorbing thriller informed by emotional intelligence and a deep understanding of geopolitics. There’s more than a trace of Greene in the book’s sharply drawn minor characters, its insights into the world of diplomacy and political deal-making, and the contrary pulls of duty and desire. Where the novel falls short of Greene is in its over-elaborate structure, which switches between tenses and points of view in a way that feels unnecessarily complex. My other quibble is that the final revelation about what torpedoed Simon’s career is delayed beyond the point at which a reader will find themselves guessing it ... Miller has a sharp eye for the pathos and absurdities of post-Soviet life ... The most compelling and memorable character is Kovrin, a carnivorous Ukrainian success story who seems to hold the key both to achieving a peaceful outcome in the square and to understanding what triggered the implosion of Simon’s career.
Miller has a fine eye for detail ... The novel’s motor is the reader’s hunger to find out how Davey’s life, once so gilded, could crash so badly. But we already know nothing ends well; not Davey’s career, not Olesya’s idealism, not the Orange revolution. After a while this triple whammy of negatives slows the story down. The ending wobbles as Davey seems set to follow a particular track; an event unfolds from which there is almost no point of return, then abruptly reverses ... [Davey's] story lingers long after the last page.