Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

When We Were Friends – Tina Seskis

Contemporary Fiction  4*s
Contemporary Fiction

I first read this book back in 2013 under its original title A Serpentine Affair but it has now been published by penguin and the number of friends reduced from seven to six. Since I enjoyed the story the first time around I was keen to see what difference the changes made, the result, the story felt much sharper while still retaining the original elements that made this such a good story.

After my comments in my review of The Lie where I stated that it was unusual because it tackled the nature of friendship, this book contains the same themes. What happens when what originally bound women together becomes fractured? When is it time to call it a day on a friendship that has lasted for decades?

We meet Camilla, Sissy, Juliette, Siobhan, Natasha and Renee as they prepare to meet up for a picnic in Hyde Park, by the Serpentine Lake. All women arrive for the rendezvous but only five leave and the reader is left in the dark until close to the end of the book as to what happened on that fateful evening. What is obvious is that there is tension between the women, Sissy didn’t really want to go, she had already come to the conclusion that the bonds formed during their first term at university had been stretched to the limit and Siobhan was aware that the rest of the group still viewed her as the ditzy student she had been, her successful life had passed them all by, after all they are now in their forties, no longer teenagers.

One of the best things about this book is the reflection of the roles that the women take, the organiser, the victim, the floozy etc. and the author takes us back to the roots of those roles, and in many cases the reasons behind them. Their stories weave in and out of time periods, sometimes overlapping with one or more of the group to create a truly insightful book with the tensions caused by the secrets they keep, and sometimes the secrets they think they have kept. Rivalry and jealousy abound and it is obvious that over the years they have simmered under the surface until the wine consumed on a summer’s evening, close to Diana’s fountain, these emotions finally break free and things are said that can never be unsaid.

The characters are well-defined, the secrets varying in shock factor but it is the consequences of events in the past that have the most impact. This is a novel of its time, set in the present of 2011, there are references to the hacking scandal that was emerging at that time, but the author keeps the time periods separated to allow the sections between past and present to be clear.

I’d like to thank the publishers Penguin Books UK for allowing me to read this novel which was published yesterday, 23 April 2015. If you haven’t already read it I thoroughly recommend this author’s debut novel One Step Too Far which she successfully self-published.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

A Serpentine Affair – Tina Seskis

Women's Fiction 4*'s
Women’s Fiction

Seven women, friends from University days, meet up for a picnic in Hyde Park near the Serpentine. Sissy believes this habit of meeting up once a year should have been shelved a few years ago, some of the friendships are so badly fractured, some are laden with guilt and would appear that most of the women are keeping at least one secret.

Tina Seskis has produced a chatty book, one which reflects the reluctance that many of us feel to break off a friendship, especially one forged at such an important time of life. I have to confess that early on in the book I struggled with the number of characters as I presumed it was going to be very hard to remember who held what characteristic /grudge although the clever way that elements of the story were unveiled meant that each of the women were soon individuals on the page. As each of the women, their families and of course the men in their lives are revealed we also get the back stories, those events that happened years ago shaping both the women and the friendships.

The main event kept me reading to find out the truth as I gasped at the lack of morals that the group displayed. This book shows both the strengths and weaknesses of friendship, the good and bad of human nature and ultimately is a great gossipy book to keep the reader entertained. Another hit for Tina Seskis following her brilliant debut One Step Too Far

I received a copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher.

See my review for One Step Too Far One Step Too FarOne Step Too Far by Tina Seskis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Emily Coleman has left home; we meet her first when she is catching the train from Manchester to go to London to start a new life. The whole premise of the book is why has she left husband Ben and Charlie?

Tina Seskis cleverly reveals all in separate narratives by Emily, her twin Caroline, mother Frances and father Andrew, which go back as far as the day Frances delivered the twins. Revealing a tale of a troubled and flawed family. For all that Emily has done well, she met and married Ben and had a child along with a lovely house. So what went so wrong and is it possible that Emily can have a new life as Cat Brown?

The themes in this book are strong touching on sibling relationships, guilt, and jealousy along with drug abuse with more than a touch of madness thrown in. The characterisation of the main and also the minor characters in this drama was well executed. It was good to read a book where all judgements about characters are left to the reader by the downplaying of others actions by the narrators, particularly Emily.

All in all a story with an original feel although the ending was a little too surreal for my liking. The twist in the tale is one of the best I’ve read, I literally gasped as I didn’t see it coming at all. I have added A Serpentine Affair: Are Friendships Ever Forever? to my wishlist ready for it’s release in September 2013

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