Review of The Snakes by Sadie Jones

I review The Snakes by Sadie Jones, a psychological family thriller.
January 17, 2021

My first book of the year is a bit of a cheat. Before Christmas, I started The Snakes, then took a break to read Spirits of the Season: Christmas Hauntings, then came back to The Snakes to finish it this week. I am a slow reader.

The Snakes is about Bea whose early life was surrounded by money and power. She has put a lot of work in distancing herself from her past, but needless to say, it comes crashing down around her in a dramatic fashion; culminating in an explosive ending.

Sadie Jones' prose dwells on the detail, picking out meaning in every sun-dappled scene, everything that is unsaid, and, seemingly, every breath taken. This attention to detail is admirable if a little navel-gazing. It became quite tedious as I was getting into the book. But the monotony melts away as Sadie introduces some of the vilest characters in print. By the second act, I ended up appreciating that kind of depth in writing. Sadie weighs down the tension and dwells on spaces left when families don't address decades of abuse.

Sadie Jones unpacks and adds to the commentary on money, power and patriarchy. Bea resists waves of money being thrown at her to make feelings go away by her father. You empathise with the kind of upbringing she must've had with an authoritarian character like that in her life. But, the book flips that dynamic on its head towards the end of the second act. Granted he's certainly not a nice man by any stretch, but the book hints that the real villain may have been the mother instead; insidiously trickling her own lifetime of abuse down the family tree.

The book's conclusion is frustrating and rushed to almost Stephen King proportions. Sadie introduces a new destructive character towards the end and picks up the detail dwelling prose. This writing style sucks the tension out of what should be an explosive last couple of chapters but instead left me skipping sentences to keep the pacing up. You could tenuously draw out that the late character was an embodiment of all that was building throughout the book—money, power, patriarchy, abuse. But instead, it feels like Sadie Jones didn't know how to end the book.

I recommend buying and reading The Snakes by Sadie Jones (preferably not from Am*zon, because local book shops need your trade!). What did you think? Do you agree? Get me on twitter and let's talk about it. I especially want to talk about that ending, spoiler free.

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I enjoy reading a lot. I also enjoy writing. I also enjoy remembering things—3 things I don't do much of these days. Writing down my thoughts on reading helps me remember and helps me develop my critical thinking. So here you are reading my thoughts on a book and joining me on my knowledge discovery. I hope you found it interesting and thanks for reading this far.

All the best x

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Photo by Aurélien Dockwiller on Unsplash