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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Review of A Serpentine Affair

Goodreads | Eric_W Welch (Forreston, IL)'s review of A Serpentine Affair:

The title is appropriate and a delicious pun. Think of a bunch of newly born snakes all intertwined yet separate. Or the serpentine belt on your car. Or an affair that goes sour. It's the name of the river where the women decide to have their annual picnic.

Everyone has had the experience of watching how friends from school evolve as their lives become more complicated with children, one or more spouses, and jobs.

In this very entertaining novel, (thanks, Karen for the heads up) seven British women who had been friends at university meet once a year to renew their friendship. Now in their forties, the meetings have become more of a chore than a pleasure, and, fueled by more than a little wine, the secrets begin to emerge.

All of the friends are damaged, some of the injuries self-inflicted, others caused by the friends, some imagined. Events of the night will have a long-lasting effect. Here's a wonderfully descriptive paragraph before things begin to go south.

The atmosphere was poisonous now, and not even the languidly liquid disappearance of the sun into a cooler, more peaceful place could rescue the evening. JoAnne and Juliette sat stiffly next to each other and didn’t appear to be speaking at all anymore, there may as well have been a fence between them, and poor Sissy looked as though she was going to faint with the stress of it all. Natasha was sullen ( as she had been most of the evening) and Siobhan was trying to paper over her appalling insult of Juliette’s husband, daring to imply that Stephen had somehow had something to do with Nigel’s death. Katie started tidying up, grimly, as if she were picking up dog-shit – tipping the remaining quarter of Sissy’s pasta salad into an M&S bag she’d designated for rubbish without even asking Sissy whether she wanted to keep it; scraping plates like they were potatoes to be scrubbed (or perhaps children to be bathed); scrunching used napkins with unnecessary force into tight mucky balls that were tossed into the carrier bag too, not bothering with recycling, just chucking the empty wine bottles in with the mess; flicking stray flakes of sausage roll towards Siobhan, perhaps deliberately.. 

Some GR friends have remarked on the difficulty of keeping the seven characters straight. I did not find that to be difficult, the author skillfully mingling the backstory of each woman with the picnic in the present as all the secrets flow together into an explosive mix. 

I admit to feeling a bit like a voyeur (or even like the man who is following one of the woman for his brother-in-law) as I watched their friendship dissolve amidst charges and recriminations, but goodness it was fun.

My thanks to the publisher for an ebook copy of this book in return for my always honest review.
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