The Serpent’s Tooth
Michelle Paver has written a very good book in The Serpent’s Tooth. It is the final part of her Eden trilogy but it stands on its own with a tantalising air of mystery.
Isabelle (Belle) Lawe was born in Jamaica at the dawning of the 20th century and has, since the age of 13, lived with a secret isolating her from family and friends. Leaving the Caribbean for school in England, her search for inner peace leads to a superficial life of parties during the surrounding horrors of the First World War.
The author captures the period perfectly when describing the numbness of existence in the trenches and the indiscriminate slaughter which gives way to the surprise of survival. Interweaving ‘letters to the Front’ into the story, a dimension of normality is introduced which shows how, for a brief moment, fear is kept at bay.
The influenza epidemic which sweeps the country just as war is drawing to a close sees Belle in the remoteness of Scotland on a journey of personal discovery and, consequently, she breaks free from her debilitating secret and finds the way to true happiness.
Ms. Paver invests her characters with strength and determination; there is an enigmatic quality to her writing which enhances the novel and shows how love and friendship can triumph over assumed guilt and adversity.