Domestic Thriller

The Snakes by Sadie Jones

9781784708825 - The Snakes by Sadie JonesThe Snakes by Sadie Jones
Published by Penguin on June 25, 2019
ISBN: 9780062897046
Genres: Fiction, Literary, Thrillers, Suspense, Horror
Pages: 448
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
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two stars - The Snakes by Sadie Jones

“The Snakes is many things—a parable and an ancient drama where a father’s greed devours his children, a police procedural, an avid take on tabloid venality, and a bitter comedy, superbly observed, where behind a woman’s eyes she is ‘all movement inside herself, like a wasp in a glass.’ I admit that I’m still shaken by parts of this novel. Sadie Jones writes with pitiless aplomb and corrosive intelligence.”—Louise Erdrich
A chilling page-turner and impossible to put down, THE SNAKES is Sadie Jones at her best: breathtakingly powerful, brilliantly incisive, and utterly devastating.
 The new novel by Sadie Jones tells the tense and violent story of the Adamsons, a dysfunctional English family, with exceptional wealth, whose darkest secrets come back to bite them. Set mostly in rural France during contemporary times, THE SNAKES is an all-consuming read and a devastating portrait of how money corrupts, and how chance can deal a deadly hand.
THE SNAKES exposes the damage wreaked by parents on children as observed by a new member of the family, Dan, a mixed-race man from Peckham who marries Bea, the daughter who refuses to take any of her father’s filthy money. But when Bea’s brother Alex (who runs a shabby hotel in Paligny, France) dies suddenly in unexplained circumstances, the confusion and suspicion which arise bring other dark family secrets—and violence—to the surface. And none of the family, even the good members, go untouched.

This book turned into a real disappointment.  It wasn’t like I struggled to get through the book.  From page one I was loving the journey, loving the complexity of every character.  Appreciating their role, their intricacies, their pain and the road that each decided to take.  The book for me, was a five-star read right up until the last two chapters.  The writing was engaging, and it had my attention so rapturously, I felt like I was contained within a vice.  It was intense and emotional, and I craved to know what the ending would deliver.  It was flat and completely separate from what was building.  I was disappointed. 

The majority of the book was exceptional.  The Snakes is a story about the complexity of money and the power that corrupts within.  Families can either be destroyed by it or brought together.  This story is unfortunately the former.  We get a glimpse of how money and the type of wealth that is astronomical can borne a childhood of at worst abuse and at best indifference. 

The Snakes allows us a fly on the wall view of a personal family tragedy.  A death that is not completely unexpected but raw and grievous all the same.  The family is dysfunctional.  Abuse always creeping at the edges of our vision, shocked by the behaviour and the actions of those that are meant to be there to protect no matter what.  The language and the tone in which the father, Griff addresses his children is standoffish and brutal like they are mere business transactions.  The death is the catalyst to the band aid being truly ripped off.  Secrets will finally come to the fore. 

The book has a very depressing and melancholy dissonance resonating throughout its pages.  It’s thought provoking and makes you think about the fragility of life and the glue that keeps families together.  This story really highlights the old adage that money is the root of all evil.  This is where Sadie Jones comes into her own.  Her characters are so impeccably constructed from the conflict to the love and security.  The atmospheric world building was so bang on the nail for creepy, threatening shadow that threatened to engulf them all.  The Snakes in the attic seemed like the perfect symbol for dread that the hotel had opened up.  Money and secrets a dreadful cocktail to sip from. 

And then the impressive build up seemed to evaporate in front of the readers eyes.  It took an unsuspected and strange turn.  I don’t mean in the form of a shocking twist.  I mean that the ending didn’t make any sense.  It felt like the author rushed the ending and didn’t listen to her character’s personalities, their inner voices.  It was a mess.


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Sadie Jones is a novelist and screenwriter. Her first novel, The Outcast (‘Devastatingly good’, Daily Mail) won the Costa First Novel Award in 2008 and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. It was also a Richard and Judy Summer Reads number one bestseller and adapted for BBC Television. Her second novel, Small Wars (‘Outstanding’, The Times; ‘One of the best books about the English at war ever’, Joel Morris), was published in 2009, and longlisted for the Orange Prize. Her third, in 2012, was The Uninvited Guests (‘A shimmering comedy of manners and disturbing commentary on class… a brilliant novel’, Ann Patchett) followed by Fallout in 2014 (‘Intoxicating and immersive’, The Sunday Times).

Sadie Jones

two stars - The Snakes by Sadie Jones

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