The Serpent and the Pearl by Kate Quinn was an Audible read for me. It was performed by three different actors for the three main voices in the novel, which is a love it or hate it feature. It falls firmly in the historical fiction genre. I love historical novels, that’s nothing surprising. So why did this particular novel fascinate and yet highly irritate me simultaneously?
The three narrators are my first source of irritation. I find it incredibly disconcerting when a story jumps between voices seemingly at random. No, it wasn’t at random but when you go from one voice that is male, to one that is female, and then one heavily accented female voice your brain just wants to scream. I understand the reasoning behind the three voice actors for the novel but I didn’t work for me on any level.
Next major source of irritation? The conclusion of this novel fails on every level. It tried to leave the reader wanting more but all it felt like was that the writer and editor picked a random spot in the story and called it quits. A good cliff hanger leaves the reader with questions unanswered, a bad cliff hanger attempt makes the reader want to never pick up another novel by the author again. This was a bad cliff hanger attempt. It literally felt like they picked a sentence and cut the story off right there.
There were some good qualities about the book however. The individual characters of the book were well written and engaging. Even these individual character stories have problems however. It felt like the author tried to weave a tapestry of disparate stories together but never quite made all the threads blend beautifully. There’s the murder mystery, the fleeing daughter, and the affair with the Pope. Any of the three stories alone would have made for a much better novel then the forced blending to which they are subjected. It honestly reads like the murder mystery and fleeing daughter stories were editorial suggestions to flush out the love affair with the Pope storyline.
Turns out, I disliked the book more than I thought! I am on the fence about spending a credit to obtain the second installment in the series just to tie up loose ends on stories I’m not really engaged enough to care about how the end. Two stars out of five, which feels overly generous but I did finish the book and the writing wasn’t awful.