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Snake Ropes

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  552 ratings  ·  109 reviews
Set on an isolated island off the Scottish coast, in a community run by women who are in awe of a mysterious structure called the Thrashing House, the novel is narrated by two teenage girls in very different circumstances. Mary is doing her best to protect her younger brother, Barney, as the island’s sons are mysteriously disappearing. Morgan is scheming to escape the pris ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published May 14th 2012 by HarperCollins (first published May 10th 2012)
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Average rating 3.58  · 
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 ·  552 ratings  ·  109 reviews

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Snake Ropes is Jess Richards' debut, and it's one of the most original, exciting first novels I've read in quite some time. Set entirely on an extremely remote island somewhere off the coast of Scotland (the exact location is hinted at but remains obscure, much like the time period in which the story takes place), it depicts a tiny community sustained by traditional trade with the 'tall men' who visit from the mainland. While one interpretation might see this as simply an old-fashioned and super ...more
Emma Shortt
Apr 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would never have picked this book up in the shop, never. It's far from what I'd usually read and I'm always a bit suspicious of books dubbed 'literary delight', 'evocatively beautiful' etc. So it was with a bit of a frown that this came out the review envelope. I thought I'd give it a few pages and if it was as boring as I suspected I'd leave it at that.

The first page threw me, I won't lie. The author has a very unique style and I thought, at first, that it was going to put me off. I was wrong
Jul 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Step inside this book and you will find yourself on, a wild island, far from the Scottish coast. It is a world apart, where people live as people in isolated communities have for many centuries. They farm, they fished, and they make things that they might trade with passing travellers.

Those travellers came often, `tall men in black coats' from the mainland, and yet the islanders never left. I wouldn't want to leave, even though I might be a little scared if I stayed. Jess Richards has created a
Snake Ropes tells the stories of two young women. Mary lives in a matriarchy where the hand goods made by the women are the main source of trade with the “Tall Men” who come from the mainland. Since the death of her mother, Mary has been the main caregiver of her baby brother, who she hides for his own safety when the Tall Men arrive. Morgan, is imprisoned in her family home, not allowed to wear shoes and forced to keep house for her narcissistic mother and her enabler father. Each chapter is pr ...more
A.K. Andrew
Jul 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Snake Ropes really is an exceptional novel, both in its stylistic uniqueness, but also in managing to successfully combine narrative and myth - real or imagined - while at the same time dealing with some really intense issues.The fact that it ostensibly starts as a relatively "simple tale of simple folk", & then turns out to be anything but, makes the reveal of its brutal events have such an impact. I was really impressed how the author managed to subtly, but consistently, keep up the tension al ...more
Sharon Mariampillai
This was an enjoyable read. The story was great, although I did have moments where I was having problems following. It was dark and a bit sinister at times, which was interesting. The characters were great. The two main characters, Mary and Morgan, have distinct voices that were interesting to follow. I enjoyed the characterization of both characters. Also, I thought the ending was really good. I can't wait to read more books from Jess Richards, who really knows how to make a great story. Overal ...more
I spent of great part of this book loving the writing, setting and atmosphere but feeling like I had no grasp on the plot other that a vague sense that there were two girls telling their tales. But in the last third suddenly a momentum took over, I connected with what was happening and I was utterly captured. I think I now have a better understanding of how the novel worked, and as such, when I read another by Richards (which I intend to do) I might feel less lost.
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british-read
4.5 stars. I have always enjoyed reading dystopian novels and psychology has never ceased to fascinate me, so naturally I’ve found this book extremely intriguing and the reading experience very satisfying. Through a nightmarish vision, the author explores narcissism, inner child and mystified love with uncanny and astounding brilliance.
May 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People who enjoy folk tales
How I Came To Read This Book: I think those folks over at Harper Collins talked about it on Facebook or something. It sounded intriguing so I got it from the library.

The Plot: The book is told from two alternating viewpoints, both of which are young women living on a mysterious island in a dystopian / fantasy near-future. Mary Jared is sixteen years old and afraid for the safety of her brother, Barney, when other young boys on the island go missing - purportedly traded to the men that come in fr
I read this book because it was mentioned on The Readers podcast and was their next book club book. I tried to finish it yesterday so I could post a question for the author who is being interviewed for the podcast this evening. However I think I may have rushed through it. There is a lot to this book that I may have missed.

At school I took O level English Language, so I am good at spelling, grammar and where to put an apostrophe! However I didn't take English Literature (I went down the science
The blurb from my copy of Snake Ropes boldly claims "In the tradition of Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood, (Jess Richards) combines a page-turning narrative and a startlingly original voice with the creation and subversion of myths." It is brave indeed to compare any novel but particularly a first one to the work of these two. The bar was set very high and honestly, I never imagined that Richards would reach it.

She did. Richards' writing is rich and lyrical. She builds this fascinating culture
Chris Wolak
Jun 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this novel after Simon and Gavin of The Readers podcast announced it as their July book club pick. It sounded like something I wouldn't pick up on my own, but I was in the mood to step outside my comfort zone.

Although I'm usually put off by dialects, it didn't take long to get into the rhythm of Mary's and I was quickly drawn into the story, curious about the lives of both Mary and Morgan, the two main characters, whose stories are told in alternating chapters. Mary grew up on the isolate
Mar 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was lucky enough to get a proof copy of this beautifully written book. Jess Richards writes of an island that is 'off the map' - a world with its own language, myths and culture, and where the landscape is not just vivid but alive in the most alarming of ways. This is a wonderful dose of magical realism, rightly compared by the publishers with the work of Margaret Attwood and Angela Carter, about a strong matriarchal culture where the women make important decisions in the mysterious 'Weaving R ...more
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book could use a trigger warning for (view spoiler) — I probably wouldn't have read it had I known where the story was going to go, and especially not that (view spoiler). But that wasn't my only problem with it. I really enjoyed a lot of the ties to Scottish mythology/folklore, and would probably like a collection of thes ...more
Jun 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful debut, which weaves myth, magic and allegory into a beguiling tale. While I don't feel that it succeeds on all levels (a bit more realism in the relationships between characters would have helped to anchor the more poetic elements of the tale, for me), it is a daring first novel and I applaud Miss Richards for her efforts. I will certainly look forward to reading more by this author. ...more
Jan 06, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I did not finish this because the writing is so pretentiously gimmicky, it hurts. I would urge anyone considering to buy this to read the free sample on amazon first, making sure they can handle the narrators' artificially clobbered together 'voices'. Made up dialects really are only for master novelists. Richards isn't one of them. ...more
Mar 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jess is a friend of mine *and* fellow Sceptre debut novelist (we swapped proofs), so anything I say will clearly be biased. Therefore, please read the *other* reviews and ratings, then do yourself a favour and read this amazing book!
Mar 31, 2020 rated it really liked it

Very weird. I had to get used to the writing because the island people speak differently, but halfway through I didn't even notice anymore. There's a lot of magic stuff and mysterious things happening but my take on it is that everyone just has a bunch of mental issues.

I definitely liked this more than Cooking with Bones. The imaging is great and it just sucks you in and refuses to let you go (just like the Thrashing House).
Apr 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was a surprisingly enjoyable book. I'd never heard of it or Jess Richards; the book had found its way to our house via a recommendation we can't remember. The book is set amongst a remote island population who live with their own customs and spiritual beliefs from way back when trapped in a time warp. It includes ghosts, shadow people and talking objects. It reminded me of The Wicker Man. However I couldn't put the book down. The two girls who are the main characters are really interesting ...more
Nov 07, 2017 rated it liked it
I'm in a bit of a quandary about this book, the writing in places was beautiful, atmospheric and descriptive, but I could put it down quite happily without a desire to pick up and continue reading, in fact I read 2 other books whilst reading this. It all came together in the end but I felt it was a slog getting there sometimes. ...more
Jodie "Bookish"  Cook
Dec 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Book Reviewsnake ropes

Title:Snake Ropes

Author: Jess Richards

Genre: Horror/Crime/Mystery

Rating: ***

Review: Snake Ropes was nominated for the Costa Prize, which to me always seems like a good indicator for a book being worth reading. Hats off to Jess Richards for pulling that one out of the bag on her first published novel. Anyway, this was on my To Be Read list for a very long time before I actually managed to get round to it, then it’s actually been a wee while since I finished it – apologies bl
Pamela Detlor
May 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Snake Ropes is a haunting work of fiction. Jess Richards delivers an original, page-turner, for her debut outing!
Set on an isolated island off the coast of Scotland, the community has no desire to leave their little slice of the world. Their means of survival is self-sufficiency and the monthly trades they make with, “the men in black coats,” from the mainland.

“No-one here goes to the main land, and no-one wants to. Our boats aren’t strong enough, we dun know the way, them can’t understand us, w
Mar 21, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thoughts crash around in my head, all fighting to be chosen... (p216)

My first thought as I review this book is that there was a hell of a lot going on. It was almost as if the author had a million and one concepts floating in her mind, threw them on the ground like a set of pick-up-sticks, and then picked them up and carefully placed them on the pages of her first novel. It's not the novel is incoherent - but it is perhaps a little too busy.

The book begins with two stories:
(1) Mary lives on a
Feb 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2013
"The tall men in boats are coming."

Mary Jasper lives on a remote island in a community run by women. Their survival is dependent on the tall men who come from the mainland to trade food and supplies for handmade goods. The tall men are taking more than handmade goods, however; boys from the island have gone missing, and when Mary's little brother disappears, she vows to find him. She enlists the help of Morgan, another girl on the island who has led a very sheltered life under the watchful eye
Nov 12, 2012 rated it liked it
The reason I rated this book with only three stars, was because it took almost a quarter of the book for me to really get into it. And yes, after a quarter things started to be more up-beat, a little interesting, but it still had it's dull moments.

That's really the only complaint I have about this very unique novel, although I did find the context a little hard to understand. Is it in the future, past? Where did these people come from, how did they get here? Maybe those questions aren't suppose
You know you’ve read a good book when you come back to write something about it and find out it stayed with you so much you need to give it an extra star. In Snake Ropes, contemporary world, myths, magic and folklore blend perfectly to create an original and gripping novel.

We follow two narrators, Mary and Morgan, living on the same remote island off the coast of Scotland but in very different conditions: one as an orphan part of a community living off trading and fishing, the other secluded in
Narrated by two teenage girls, from wildly different backgrounds, 'Snake Ropes' is a magical tale that weaves an intricate picture where myth and reality blend so much they can no longer be separated.

Set on a mysterious island, somewhere west of St. Kilda, in an unspecified though presumably contemporary time, where the locals have little contact with the outside world except through their trade with the Tall Men, Richards has created a matriarchal world with both echoes of life on Hirta and th
Jan 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book read differently to anything else I have ever read, lacking the superficial gloss of commercial fiction. Instead, it offers the abstract sensation of paintings which work their way into your dreams and the old warmth of oral storytelling. Almost everything I have read lately seems to constantly remind me that, as the reader, I am part of some specific targeted market which it conforms to please - in other words, it was refreshingly uncliched and does not fit into a genre. Also refreshi ...more
Mar 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
"Snake Ropes" is one of the most beautiful books that I have had the pleasure of reading. The prose is lush, and although the language of the Island takes a little getting used to, Mary's narrative is so compelling that it is more than worth the effort. In fact, the Islanders' language contributes greatly to the story as it conveys the nuances of a distinct culture.

Mary and Morgan are fascinating characters. Although Morgan is the elder of the two girls, she often seems younger in spite of the h
Jul 22, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

CW: human trafficking (of sorts) parental death, rape and repressed memories

What a strange book.. If I'm completely honest, I don't know if I understood everything that went on or was talked about in it or if I did (some things I saw coming halfway through the book) but simply didn't like it.. 🤔 I didn't care about the two main characters narrating this story in alternating chapters probably because I really struggled with the writing style. I often caught myself just reading the words page afte

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The Readers: Book #11; Snake Ropes - Jess Richards 2 23 Sep 18, 2013 09:41AM  
HarperCollins Can...: Snake Ropes 2 33 May 14, 2012 10:12AM  

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I was born in Wales in 1972, and grew up too fast in south west Scotland where I lived with my English parents and three brothers, watching the ferry boats going to and from Northern Ireland. I left home at 17, went over the border to England, and lived for a year in Carlisle, before moving to Devon. I gained a first class degree from Dartington College of Arts when I was 21, then after brief stin ...more

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