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Formats
Hardcover Details
  • 04/2018
  • 978-1642710601 B07C8QHR6R
  • 314 pages
  • $18.00
Ebook Details
  • 04/2018
  • B07C8QHR6R
  • 314 pages
  • $2.99
Paperback Details
  • 04/2018
  • 1642710601 B07C8QHR6R
  • 314 pages
  • $9.99
Demarest Campbell
Author, Illustrator
Baby Snakes

Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

In turn-of-the-Century Calcutta, Police Medical Examiner, Dr. E.B. Charron, feels protective of Delia, the Bohemian, meddlesome, only legitimate child of the aristocratic Moran family who might be more than merely harmlessly eccentric. An incipient alcoholic widow with a small, poisonous stepson, Delia maintains subversive relationships among the demimonde and infuriates her oddly possessive maid.
Plot/Idea: 10 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 8 out of 10
Overall: 9.25 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot: The overall plot was simple, but the stories within the story truly showcased the complexities of life, family, friendship, and love throughout the ages.

Prose/Style: Fans of old-school classics like “Jane Eyre” and “Wuthering Heights” will fall in love with the dream-like prose here. But the sections where characters exclusively spoke French, Russian, Bengali, Hindustani, or other languages needed a few extra translations and context clues to grip readers.

Originality: The life cycle of this singular family felt entirely organic and deeply human. A uniquely delightful tale!

Character Development: The main characters were well developed and felt like full, complete beings, but there were too many minor characters. Having staggered exits for these minor characters was an excellent choice, but it muddied the waters a bit when it came to who had died, who had moved away, and who was still interacting with the main characters.

Date Submitted: May 08, 2019

Reviews
Foreward Clarion Reviews

Foreword Clarion Reviews
Baby Snakes
Demarest Campbell Okir Publishing (Apr 21, 2018) Softcover $9.99 (314pp) 978-1-64271-060-1
Clarion Rating: 4 out of 5
Baby Snakes is an original take on the Raj, full of wry humor, strong characters, and evocative descriptions that linger.

Full-bodied characters and a darkly comedic narrative voice combine in Demarest Campbell’s Baby Snakes, a historical novel in which Brits behave badly under the Raj.

As a favor to the Moran family, Dr. Edwin Charron agrees to accompany their daughter, Delia, home from Europe to the family residence in Calcutta. Unbeknownst to him, Delia and her maid Devi have conspired to conceal the suicide of a friend of Delia’s with whose husband the maid was having an affair. When Devi makes a dramatic suicide attempt on the voyage home, Dr. Charron gets a glimpse of the cauldron of dysfunctional relationships that awaits in Calcutta.

The glimpse is not enough. The opulent and fully staffed Moran residence is home to a fretwork of tangled alliances and bloodlines. Joining Delia and Devi as main characters is Richard, Delia’s unacknowledged half-brother by way of her father’s affair. Later, young Alistair is added to the family when Delia inherits him along with a sizeable estate.

Though the cast grows larger, the lives of these four form the core of the book, representing different aspects of the Raj experience. Delia, fascinated by science but born into a narrow world where life can pass in a languorous haze of gin and dinner parties, transcends her fate in ways that are realistic to the time and place. Devi surprises with a final act of loyalty, and Richard’s departure will bring out the handkerchiefs. The same complexity extends to the large cast with the exception of a Russian who drags Delia through a subplot.

Descriptions of people and locales blend dark humor with undercurrents of openhearted empathy and reach near-brilliant concision: Calcutta is “wrapped in decay and a good place to go insane unnoticed,” for example. The richness of the narrative voice, more than the story or the characters, makes the book compelling. However, few chapters are longer than five or six pages, so the literary quotes at the start of each chapter are more intrusive than illuminating.

In this fast-moving tale, characters appear and disappear for years at a time and locales change without warning. Attention is required, and readers whose minds wander are likely to suddenly find themselves among different characters in new settings, backtracking to see how this happened. As the story draws to a close, the pace becomes more conventional and acquires poignant resonance. The epilogue is a brilliant and satisfying surprise.

Baby Snakes is an original take on the Raj, full of wry humor, strong characters, and evocative descriptions that linger.

 

Reviewed by Susan Waggoner November 26, 2018

 

Kirkus Review

Campbell’s darkly humorous historical novel follows the iconoclastic life of Cordelia Moran in 19th-century Calcutta. 

These well-drawn, decidedly British characters spend their steamy days in India in erudite, witty repartee: “Young Richard set about earning his keep by keeping Delia amused, spying and lying for her, and defending her against the incumbent downstairs staff of crabby, dank cousins from the outskirts of Aix who always appeared to have slicked back their hair with their own sputum.” In Europe, Delia marries a man called only Mr. James, a recent widower in whose house she is recuperating from a medical procedure. After a few years of miscarriages and near-death pregnancies, her husband, who “slid into her bed” one night, dies, freeing Delia to return, wealthier, to India. In India, she enters into a murky relationship with D’mitri Shevchenko, a sinister character who supplies Delia’s dying mother with opiates and may or may not have kidnapped Delia’s ward, Alistair. To redeem Alistair, Delia marries Shevchenko while secretly married to another man, with whom she lives after leaving Shevchenko but with whom she is seldom seen. She grows reclusive as she ages, increasing the mystery surrounding her various adventures and misadventures, all the while remaining the center of attention in her small coterie of friends, admirers, and detractors. Campbell’s tale of an eccentric, independent woman living out her life in colonial Calcutta is set against a geographically accurate backdrop. It’s filled with wit, period detail, and literary references (like Delia’s name—a Shakespearean reference to Lear’s daughter banished for her independence). Her women are strong and eccentric; her men, delightfully Dickensian. The powerful writing style and clever characters are thoroughly enjoyable but can sometimes overshadow and confuse the storyline.

An elegant examination of the people and mores of a particular time and place in the history of the British Empire; perfect for anglophiles.

News
05/10/2019
Pinnacle Book Achievement Award

In 2019 Baby Snakes won the annual Pinnacle Book Achievement Award for Literary Fiction.

Formats
Hardcover Details
  • 04/2018
  • 978-1642710601 B07C8QHR6R
  • 314 pages
  • $18.00
Ebook Details
  • 04/2018
  • B07C8QHR6R
  • 314 pages
  • $2.99
Paperback Details
  • 04/2018
  • 1642710601 B07C8QHR6R
  • 314 pages
  • $9.99

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