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Snake Ropes [Hardcover]

Jess Richards
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
RRP: 17.99
Price: 14.39 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Paperback 6.29 Trade-In Store
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Book Description

10 May 2012

The day the tall men come from the mainland to trade, Mary's little brother goes missing. She needs to find him. She needs to know a secret that no-one else can tell her.

Jess Richards' stunning debut will show you crows who become statues and sisters who get tangled in each other's hair, keys that talk and ghosts who demand to be buried. She combines a page-turning narrative and a startlingly original voice with the creation and subversion of myths.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (10 May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 144473783X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444737837
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 326,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jess Richards was born in Wales in 1972, and grew up too fast in south west Scotland where she watched the ferry boats going to and from Northern Ireland. She left home at 17, went over the border to England, and lived for a year in Carlisle, before moving to Devon. She gained a first class degree from Dartington College of Arts when she was 21, then after brief stints busking and carrying on in both Leeds and London, she moved to Brighton aged 23 where she grew up a bit slower for many years. She is currently in a remote part of Scotland, living as simply as possible and writing. She has an isolation blog on her website to record some of this period of time.

She studied Creative Writing as an adult learner at Sussex University. She had a number of short stories published as a result of competitions she entered while on the course.
Jess' debut novel, Snake Ropes, was published by Sceptre in 2012.
Snake Ropes was longlisted for the Green Carnation Prize and shortlisted for the Costa first novel award 2012 and the Scottish Book Awards.
Her second novel, Cooking with Bones, was published by Sceptre in April 2013.

Product Description


Jess Richards's debut is a cornucopia of secrets and surprises, written in a bright, sassy style. The author is exuberantly inventive in creating a bitter-sweet world of magical transformations. (Independent)

A terrific story, quirky and wildly original. (Joanne Harris)

Richards handles her ambitions with aplomb. SNAKE ROPES is partly an extended meditation on trauma and healing, and the trauma is handled so well that the reader is exactly as upset as she needs to be to follow through...SNAKE ROPES reminds us that the act of storytelling is in itself a form of resolution. (Guardian)

Richards skilfully alternates between Mary and Morgan and their stories, touching on themes such as the transmission of folk wisdom, the creation of myths and violence against women. (Financial Times)

From the islanders' subtle creole to their myths of sea and sky and earth, Jess Richards has nurtured a remarkable community, their home glimpsed in the sea-mist like a new Avalon. Angela Carter or Laura Esquivel would have been proud of this. (We Love This Book)

A mystical book where a harsh self-sufficient lifestyle meets myths, legends and magic . . . an unusual, haunting debut novel. (

Book Description

Stunning fiction in the vein of Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood from debut author Jess Richards. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow! 18 Sep 2012
Woweeeee, what a book. Have had the busiest few weeks but have snatched any time I can to read it, as it is the most fantastically involving and inventive book I have read in a long time. Just had to put everything else to one side to finish reading it, and am now in that post-book state of wishing I hadn't finished it yet!

Snake Ropes is something quite beautiful, magical, creative and transporting. Transporting because I felt like I'd opened a little door somewhere and entered into another, more wondrous, reality. The characters are so real, beautifully and truthfully drawn, and the writing poetic and vivid. Jess Richards has a deftness of touch, dealing with some raw, painful subjects with the lightness of a poet. And the world of women was tenderly evoked, creating the a space where women have autonomy and weave a web of stories, magic and legend. Having worked with women in labour, it would be the lovely character Kelmar I would want by my side in that moment. In fact, if I ever work in that capacity again, I'll channel her I think!

The watery world of the island is vivid, a place where stories and folklore are tangled in the seaweed. I read the book whilst at home on the cliffs, with rain lashing down and waves crashing on the rocks below, and felt at times like I really had slipped through that portal to join Mary and Morgan...

This is a beautiful book and a real pleasure to read. It's so refreshing to find a debut writer with such a unique voice and I'm sure this writer has a long career ahead of her - I'm looking forward to the next book already!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing read 26 Dec 2012
By Mr. K. Cross VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
A fantastical tale that is fresh, original, imaginative & absorbing. The story has elements of myth, folklore & fairytale. It is set on am imaginary, isolated island. They have their own unique way with language, & it did feel a bit contrived at first, but once I was drawn into the story, it became natural, & flowed. Fairytale & reality are blurred, for the two main female teenage characters as well as us, the readers. The islanders only contact with the outside world is when they trade with the Tall Men. This trade is needed, but feared, as their visit coincides with the disappearance of island boys. One of the main characters, Mary, engages in a search for her brother who goes missing, while the other girl featured, Morgan, is practically kept prisoner by her parents, & the story follows her attempt to escape. There are mysteries to puzzle & tantalise you: how did Mary's mother die; what are Morgan's parents afraid of; how can Mary's brother's voice be heard coming from his favourite toy; what is the mystery behind the Thrashing House, the place from where no-one comes back? These & more mysteries are unfolded as the book progresses, & it kept me enthralled. Considering this is a first novel, it is quite a considerable achievement. I always know when I've really enjoyed a book when I feel sorry I have finished it, & this was one such book. Magical!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Completely Original, inventive and stunning 11 Nov 2012
By Ms. C. A. Anderson VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I wasn't sure what to expect, sometimes you pick a book after reading the summary and it's nothing like what you read. This book was like this but in an unexpected and magical way. I felt a feeling that I haven't felt since the Chronicles of Narnia; of otherworldliness and a vivid feeling of fairytale mixed with reality. It's quite magical.

It's clear that Richards' childhood in the Isles of Scotland has been inspiration for the fictional Island setting which carries so much mystery and we travel with our alternating narratives and begin to unravel the mystery and history of the island and of course our characters.

Mary, one of our alternating narratives is a young teenager devastated by death and loss, namley her little brother; Barnley. The mystery behind this highlighting the long chain of young boys to have gone missing. At the other end of the scale we have Morgan who's confined existence with more than just overbearing parents brings the story of Cinderella to mind.

Both being told stories of tales and stories of a land before, reality and fairytale are hard to separate not only for Mary and Morgan but for us as the reader. With magic as common place as the being in the trees and words you speak, a mysterious tangle of events begins to entwine us and the girls with a need to find out what the mystery behind this island is and why it is so important for the 'snake ropes' made by the people of the island of seaweed and magic to be traded with outsiders...

An impressive debut novel venturing and mixing fairytale and reality together in such a completely original and inventive way which captures you and transports almost physically there as well as mentally. Stunning.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read- very entertaining 22 Sep 2012
By D. Richards VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I very much enjoyed reading this book.

Jess Richards has made a very impressive debut novel with a compelling storyline, vivid characters and locations that are given fantastic descriptions. The mix of modern day story telling along with classic folktales makes for a very enjoyable read. The only slight gripe I had about the book was the structure of the language used by some of the characters early on in the book - it was a bit "yoda-esque" and hard to get my head around at times, but once I got passed that I really enjoyed the tale told.

A superb book for a debut writer!!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning
One of the most original books I have read. This magical tale held me in its thrall and did not let go until long after I had read the last page. Read more
Published 10 days ago by Renita
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
'Snake Ropes' is the story of Mary and Morgan, two very different girls who live very different lives on a isolated island, Mary lives with her Da and her brother, Barney, while... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Paula Mc
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written, if it's to your taste
'Snake Ropes' is one of those unsettling stories where you're never quite sure what the rules are. The time and place of the setting are unclear. Read more
Published 2 months ago by BookWorm
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully woven and embroidered tale
As a début novel, Jess Richards' "Snake Ropes" takes some beating. In it, she conjures a world that is both familiar and yet strange; an enigmatic world built of equal parts... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Steve Benner
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous.
Bought on a whim.

But my whims were right again.

Didn't want it to finish. The sign of a great read.
Published 5 months ago by C. Cummins
5.0 out of 5 stars gripping yarn
read it in a weekend, unputdownable story with riot of intertwining imaginative happenings, many twists and turns like the ropes themselves...
Published 6 months ago by Janet Lumb
4.0 out of 5 stars lots of twists and turns
It started of nice and gentle then I found it a bit hard going but I persisted as I was intrigued to fins out about the snake ropes. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Elizabeth A. Milburn
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating combination of fantasy, folktale and myth
On a remote and isolated island off the edge of the map, Mary is searching desperately for her little brother, missing since the day the Tall Men came to trade. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Macey89
2.0 out of 5 stars Meh...
Read this with an open mind and don't let one bad review put you off giving it try. It just wasn't for me. Heard this was the new Hunger Games - but it's not. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mrs. Amy K. Seppman
1.0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of tea
Sadly I gave up after a short while - it didn't grip me at all. Bit of a shame really
Published 11 months ago by Michele Farmer
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