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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow!
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...
Published 22 months ago by MagicMary

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A rich uncanny novel
Mary Jared lives in a remote island in the far north, where the only contact with the outside world is the 'tall men' who come from the mainland to trade. These men, although necessary, are also feared as their arrivals coincide with the disappearance of island boys. When Mary's brother disappears she deploys all her powers (both natural and supernatural) to try and find...
Published 21 months ago by Eleanor


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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lives up to the hype, 26 Jun 2012
This review is from: Snake Ropes (Hardcover)
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Told through two side-by-side first person narratives from two young girls on a remote fictional island, Snake Ropes is well worth all the literary hype that has been heaped on it.

Richards describes a completely different world - a matriarchal society 'off the edge of the map' where ropes turn into snakes and boys mysteriously disappear. She manages to make this world both dreamlike and dark, whilst making the narrative as gripping as any thriller.

A real find for me, and a book I'll be recommending to all of my friends.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Off the edge of the map, 26 Jun 2012
By 
Laura T (Cambridge, U.K) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Snake Ropes (Hardcover)
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This impressive debut novel about islands, keys, embroidery, women and the sea takes inspiration from two very different fairytale traditions, personified in its two narrators. Mary has lived her life on an isolated island that bears more than a passing resemblance to St Kilda, despite the talk of the bewitched 'Thrashing House' where those who transgress the rules of this matriarchal community are sent, and ideas about enchanted, poisonous snake ropes left by the 'tall men' who come to trade for handicrafts and fish. Her references are those of Norse or Celtic folklore; harsh and unreasoning, and consistently peculiar. Morgan, confined to a house on the same island after her family fled from the mainland, inhabits a fairer (in both sense of the word) world of the Brothers Grimm or Perrault's tales, where virtue is rewarded and things come in threes, and retains this same expectation herself as she hopes for escape. Her twin sisters, meanwhile, are straight out of Hans Christian Anderson. Among this jumble of storytelling traditions, Jess Richards has fashioned something striking and fresh; she is certainly a writer to watch.

There are faults to this novel. Richards' command of pace at the beginning of Mary's story, as she searches for her kidnapped brother, Barney, and uncovers family secrets, only makes it more obvious when this novel sags somewhat in the middle. It takes a little too long for Mary and Morgan to meet, as they inevitably must, but after they do, the narrative picks up again. I loved Mary's voice, which took me a few pages to read easily, but after that, added to the strength and depth of her character. However, at the weakest points, I felt that Richards was creating a mishmash of ideas just because she could. This can be exhilarating, but also a little shallow, as when Morgan muses, 'I'm not hungry for an oven-baked witch, I'm not laughing at an empress who wears the skin of her fattened emperor as her brand new clothes... I'm so tired, but I don't want to sleep for decades to give anyone a kiss they've wanted for only a moment'. I also wanted the world of the island to be more sufficiently fleshed out, although I appreciate that was probably not Richards' intention. The narrative is continuously and deliberately disorientating, as when Mary listens to voices in metal and Morgan drinks forgetting liquid, and this creates an incredible sense of atmosphere, but I wanted to feel a little more grounded in the rhythms of daily life in this world; the traditions of the Thrashing House and how the women govern this community. This is a book I could admire, but not fully inhabit, and hence, I didn't enjoy it as much as I might have done.

Nevertheless, Richards has set herself a formidable challenge with this novel, and on the whole, she rises to it. I'm looking forward to whatever she writes next.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A read that you are drawn into by the characters!, 20 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Snake Ropes (Kindle Edition)
I heard this book being discussed on the radio, and was reviewed by their listeners and the author read a few lines and discussed the book. It made me intrigued to hear her creative process and that made the book come alive. She has created two distinct lead characters and you need to discover what it is all about!
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strange and Secret, 8 Jun 2012
By 
Book Gannet (Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Snake Ropes (Hardcover)
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This book is strange - intentionally so. There's an island off the edge of the map where women do craftwork and men fish, and once a month the tall men come to trade. That's the way the island works. Until boys start disappearing.

Mary is an islander who narrates half the tale. When her little brother is taken, she's willing to do whatever it takes to get him back. After all she's the one who looks after him - he's hers. Fevers, secrets, memory-keeping keys and mysterious folklore accompany Mary as she discovers there's more to Barney's disappearance than she ever feared. And truth can be so much more dangerous than lies.

The rest of the story is told by Morgan, a mainlander whose parents fled to the island to hide behind a thirteen foot pink fence. Her main quest is to escape her mother's domain, and is full of delusions, fairytales, ghosts, half-remembered memories and dangerous empathy.

The imaginative, dreamy feel to the book is what it made it both so compelling and enjoyable for me. It's often difficult to tell what's real or imagined, and the dark, malevolent Thrashing House looms over all. Sadly, though, I felt the underlying secrets to Mary's plot were too obvious and commonly told, while Morgan's role tails off with a whimper. After everything that had gone before, the end left me with too many questions - not least about those Snake Ropes of the title.

A clever debut, full of atmosphere, menace and imagination. A good read.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Snake ropes:, 27 May 2012
This review is from: Snake Ropes (Hardcover)
The language itself entwines you like a the snake ropes of the title. A cross between fable and poetry, with unexpected moments of wry humour and bleak beauty, the story takes you and won't let go.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of tea, 11 May 2013
This review is from: Snake Ropes (Kindle Edition)
Sadly I gave up after a short while - it didn't grip me at all. Bit of a shame really
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2 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Luminous magical realism, 21 April 2012
This review is from: Snake Ropes (Hardcover)
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For a first novel this is very accomplished. The setting is at once like and very unlike St Kilda on the farthest margins of the Hebrides. Yet there is nothing Scottish about this novel and whilst there is wonder and myth and supernatural goings on aplenty there is no trace of religion. The author has conjured a location, a time, a community and characters that ring true together somehow whilst being entirely an original fantasy. It is a compulsive read and the story develops very nicely on the whole.
Overall the book has a dreamlike quality and part of this dreamlike state is how the bits of the story don't quite connect or come across as several unconnected vignettes only to make some kind of sense much later on. I can imagine that the book was written over a period of time as a load of different vignettes, maybe in a writing group and then has been stitched together into this story giving a patchwork feel where the patches are distinct from one another but form a greater whole together. It is to be expected that there will be the odd stray thread and parts that are a little over sewn. And it could be said that less patches would have made a clearer story and lost none of the impact. Whilst it does work well I think opportunities are missed to make profound resonances and the author has a bit of a tin ear for what really makes myth meaningful and eternal. It is so much more than narrative but this book is not. It is a great narrative but an ultimately insubstantial one.
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Snake Ropes
Snake Ropes by Jess Richards (Hardcover - 10 May 2012)
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