Book Review: THE SNAKES

The night they decided to leave London Bea had a dream. Dreams are like silent films; guns are fired without shots, people talk without voices. This dream was deafening. The noise woke Bea up, shocked breathless and terrified.

The Snakes, by Sadie Jones is a compelling read. I read it on the recommendation from my sister-in-law, who couldn’t put it down. It is about Bea, a psychotherapist in London, and her husband, Dan, an aspiring artist, who doesn’t seem to be aspiring much these days. The story follows them on a journey to Bea’s brother’s hotel in France, where Bea’s and Dan’s carefully constructed life begins to unravel.

Bea, as we learn, is from a very wealthy family. Her brother, Alex, who lives in France, is fighting his own demons. Their parents, Griff and Liv, are manipulative in very different ways and their brother is distant (geographically and metaphorically). Like Dan, the reader is absorbed by their backstory. There is something seductive about their wealth and way of life, and something deeply sinister about the family dynamic.

‘I wonder if it hurts them to shed their skins,’ she said. She didn’t feel afraid, standing there in the darkness, imagining snakes, even with the smell of death in the air

To the older millennial woman, like myself, it may be that Bea is the most relatable character, clinging to her morals and, perhaps, being a little self-satisfied about it. Throughout the novel, she learns to compromise, when tragedy throws the whole family together, more tightly than before. Dan, an outsider because of his relatively deprived upbringing and because of his skin colour, is also relatable because, like him, the reader is relatively ill-informed about the true depth of the Adamson family’s corruption.

The book is superbly written, with fantastic pacing. What begins as a gentle exploration of a modern marriage, becomes a thriller, and a mystery, and the veneer of civility that has determined everyone’s behaviour is eroded rapidly, although the quality of the writing never degrades. The story is told through alternating points of view, sometimes switching mid-chapter, but it is never confusing.

I certainly recommend this book to those who enjoy modern thrillers and excellent writing. It is dark and portrays some of the worst human behaviours. Do not hold out hope that all will be resolved, or that those who deserve it will get their comeuppance. Do read it for the absorbing plot and compelling, if not always likeable, characters.

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