I think that it is significant that I started reading A Serpentine Affair by Tina Seskis while cottaging with three of my closest friends from university. You see, A Serpentine Affair is about a group of university friends at their annual get together. The main difference between my get together and the one recounted in the novel is the presence of a dead body, and that can liven things up a little!
The group of seven old friends meet up on the banks of the Serpentine in Hyde Park for an evening of picnic. This seemingly bucolic setting is disturbed by the baggage each of the women brings along with them. For some it is old feuds that have never been fully resolved (this brings to mind Friends and ‘We were on a break!”), for others it is recently discovered infidelities and for one friend it is the presence of store bought sausage rolls! Needless to say, too much alcohol is consumed and secrets and accusations throw the picnic off kilter.
Seskis lets the tension build slowly, dropping larger and larger bombs as the evening progresses. The picnic itself is interspersed with flashbacks that shed light on the alliances and enmity between various diners. The aftermath of the picnic is also explored as the friends discuss and decide how they will deal with the police investigation that follows the discovery of a dead body. This, more than anything, gives Seskis the opportunity to show each character’s true colors.
My one quibble with A Serpentine Affair is that there are too many characters to keep straight. I ended up having to write little notes about each character’s personality and alliances. Because the women’s shared histories spans so many years, it was difficult to keep track of who had a crisis when and who was there to offer support. Aside from that, A Serpentine Affair was a well timed summer read.
Who would like this book? This book would definitely appeal to those interested in exploring issues of friendship and betrayal. In my head I’ve grouped it together with books like The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer and The Group by Mary McCarthy, which I plan to read for its re-release in later this month. Seskis’ novel is also very much about place, making a great read for anybody heading over to Old Blimey.