Author: Jess Richards
Publisher: Sceptre, 2012
Genre: Magic Realism
Rating : 4.5 Crowns
An island off the edge of the map......it could be anywhere but the setting reminded me of the description of the Outer Hebrides in Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg so that's where I let my imagination take me.
An isolated community in which the men farm and fish and the women craft beautiful broideries, knitting and weaving......and snake ropes. Seldom does anyone leave the island and their only contact with the outside world is with the tall men in boats who regularly come to trade.
A matriarchal society steeped in old superstitions and beliefs. Within the weaving room the women make decisions, pass judgement on the wrongdoers and hold the key to the sinister sounding Thrashing Room.
The story is told by two 18-year-old narrators. Mary is island-born and lives with her fisherman father and her three-year-old brother who she loves dearly. But boys have been disappearing from the island and Mary fears for Barney especially when the tall traders come. When Barney does go missing Mary is determined to find him and eventually her life intersects with a girl from the other side of the island.
Morgan's parents fled the mainland and barricaded themselves behind high walls beyond which Morgan has never been. With her only solace the books she loves Morgan longs for freedom.
Snake Ropes has a voice so original and creative it is very hard to describe in a way that does it justice. Magic abounds - keys and toys that speak, ghostly shapeshifting owls, dreams captured for art and ropes that bite. There are myths of the sea and the mist-shrouded islands woven into the story and at its heart a sad and very human tale is slowly revealed.
Written in beautiful and imaginative prose this debut novel introduces a talented new writer and I'll be looking forward to what she produces next.
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