Right from the opening pages, this book seemed reminiscent of 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings' by Maya Angelou and 'The Color Purple' by Alice Walker. And I immediately thought, wow, if it's going down that road, it's going to have a lot to live up to. But it did !
We follow the sad life of Celia, who is a troubling lead character because she seems by turns to be a victim of her environment and upbringing but also, at times, rather cold-hearted and even calculating. Her early life is tragic, partly because it seems so unavoidable - her story, that of running away from an abusive home in Black Rock to find a better life, but ending up in a similar situation in different circumstances, is the standard basis of a lot of black American writers - and I have to admit, I was amazed to see the author's photograph on the back cover and realise she is neither black nor American ! What makes Celia's situation even sadder is the fact that the local soothsayer predicts her life as a series of tragic episodes so it seems unavoidable. Despite the predictions, there were a few sad events I didn't see coming and I loved the fact that, having gone full circle, the book ends on a positive, hopeful note. I won't give away the plot or it will spoil it !
The blurb on the back of the book describes Amanda Smyth as "a born novelist" and I'd have to agree. I'll definitely be looking out for more of her work.
Serpent's Tail (26 Feb 2009)
star rating : 5/5