Title: The Little Snake
Author: A L Kennedy
Publisher: Canongate Books
Date Published: November 2018
Length: 145 pages
I’m not entirely sure how to categorise this little book from Scottish author A L Kennedy other than to say it’s more like a fable than any other genre. It could actually be said to be a meditation on death and how life is lived in the face of this inevitability.
There is love and sadness and joy and sorrow within its pages. It is charming and magical and thought provoking and written in very simple and uncomplicated language. We see the world from a child’s point of view mostly through the eyes of the young girl called Mary and I confess I loved at the beginning when we meet her and are given insight into how her mind creates vast spaces from a tiny garden.
One of the big plot lines, if I can call it that, is how death copes (changes) when experiencing love. The snake called Lanmo disappears at regular intervals to go about its business with other people (I’ll say no more to avoid spoilers!) and we meet some curious characters and it feels like we’re being given special and privileged insight into one of the most emotive periods of life, death. I confess I particularly loved the scenes with the dancing couple later in the book.
Kennedy provides a real emotional hit within the confines of effectively very little prose and that is surely a skill in itself. At times I thought I knew what period the book is set in but then I settled on the thought that it’s probably written so that it could be set in any time or place and thus is timeless.
It is fairly short at 145 pages and I wasn’t sure whether this was about enough or if I wanted it to continue and hopefully explain a bit more, especially about the nature of the little snake. I think that’s the one thing that I was slightly dissatisfied with, that the ending left me feeling like I wanted to know a bit more than the story revealed. But then maybe that’s partly the point of the fable, if that’s what it is, to leave you to take the story where it goes in your own mind. I’d definitely recommend it and can see book groups having great fun interpreting it.
Review via NetGalley/Canongate ARC.
Thanks for reading.