Book review: A Serpentine Affair by Tina Seskis

Can I let you in on a secret? I have seen the devil, and I know its name. Come closer, so I can whisper it in your ear.

{ NetGalley }

Really. It is the devil! Because every time you promise to be good, to not get tempted by another book you simply have to read and to hell with all the other books that are piling up alarmingly on your to-read pile, there it is, with a shiny new book that you just cannot resist. And so you succumb, over and over and over again.

The other night, I had almost made my escape. I logged off the site before I could give in to temptation. { Yay me! } But before I could pat myself on the back, I saw this book by an author whose debut novel I loved. And there I was, begging to be let back in. To request an advance reader copy of Tina Seskis’ A Serpentine Affair.

Tina-Seskis-A-Serpentine-AffairSeven old friends. One annual reunion. Countless feuds. How do friends stay friends for more than 25 years when there is so much to feel aggrieved about?

Juliette and JoAnne have never got over one of them sleeping with the other’s boyfriend. Sissy secretly blames someone for the death of her husband. Natasha knows one of them is having an affair with her partner. Siobhan annoys everyone. Katie is annoyed by everyone. Camilla desperately tries to keep the peace. So when their picnic in the park goes horribly wrong and one of them ends up in the Serpentine, who knows what really happened? And just what secrets from the past are about to unfold, changing everyone’s lives forever?

Seskis weaves together the stories of these seven women skillfully, moving from the past to the present, from one woman’s story to anothers history. There’s Juliette’s search for her birth mother; JoAnne’s stint as a bookseller in the US, from which she returned a changed person; Natasha’s seemingly perfect life that hides a dysfunctional marriage; Sissy’s trauma when she finds out that her husband has cancer; and Katie’s struggle with anger issues.

As we meander through their past, events are coming to a head in the present. The women drink too fast and eat too little, tempers flare, personal demons are wrestled with and old secrets start to tumble out of the closet. By the time the evening draws to a close, the women don’t seem to notice or care that one of their friends is missing, and that sets in motion yet another nightmare.

Seskis brings her characters alive and excels at giving them deep-seated flaws and vulnerabilities. I also loved the way she touched on a number of social issues – the far-reaching psychological consequences of rape; the breakdown of morality; and the deeply dysfunctional life that can hide behind a super successful public persona – without bogging down the narrative or coming across as preachy or judgmental.

Seskis juggles the stories of her numerous characters with aplomb. And though it might get a bit difficult to keep track of all of them, the rewards for staying with it are rich indeed. With this book, which comes on the heels of her debut novel One Step Too Far, Seskis proves that she is an author to look out for.

Buy now from Amazon. Note: The novel has been renamed When We Were Friends

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