Excerpt from The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Serpent's Tale

by Ariana Franklin

The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin X
The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2008, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2009, 416 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kathy Pierson

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


The daughter was shouting, "That's out, Dadda." Master Reed appeared at the head of the ladder in a smell of cow dung. "Gor dang, what is it?"

Stupid with relief, Adelia said, "It's a baby." Ugly, bloodied, soapy, froglike, with its feet tending toward its head as they had in the womb, but undamaged, breathing, and, when tapped on its back, objecting to life in general and its emergence into it in particular—to Adelia, as beautiful a sight and sound as the world was capable of producing.

"That's as may be, but what is it?"

"Oh." Adelia put down the knife and turned the miracle over. It was male, quite definitely male. She gathered herself. "I believe the scrotum swelling to be caused by bruising and will subside."

"He's a'going to be popular if it don't, ain't he?" Master Reed said.

The cord was severed, Mistress Reed was stitched and made decent for visitors, and the baby was wrapped in a fleece and put into his mother's arms.

"Here, missis, you got a name as we can call him after?" her husband wanted to know.

"Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar," Adelia said apologetically.

There was silence.

"What about him?" Master Reed pointed at the tall figure of Mansur, who had come up with the siblings to view the miracle.

"Mansur bin Fay"" bin Nasab Al-Masaari Khayoun of Al Amarah."

More silence.

Mansur, whose alliance with Gyltha was enabling him to understand English even if it gave him little chance to speak it, said in Arabic, "The prior comes, I saw his boat. Let them call the boy Geoffrey."

"Prior Geoffrey's here?" Adelia was down the ladder in a trice and running to the tiny wooden platform that served as a quay— all homes in the fenland had access to one of its innumerable rivers, its children learning to maneuver a coracle as soon as they could walk.

Clambering out of his barge with the help of a liveried oarsman was one of Adelia's favorite people. "How are you here?" she said, hugging him. "Why are you here? How is Ulf?"

"A handful, but a clever handful. He thrives." Gyltha's grandson, and, so it was said, the prior's as well, had been set to serious study at the priory school and would not be allowed to leave it until the spring sowing.

"I am so pleased to see you." "And I you. They told me at Waterbeach where you were gone. It appears that the mountain must come to Mohammed."

"It's still too mountainous," Adelia said, standing back to look at him. The prior of Saint Augustine's great canonry in Cambridge had been her first patient and, subsequently, her first friend in England; she worried about him. "You have not been keeping to my diet."

"Dum vivimus, vivamus," he said. "Let us live while we live. I subscribe to the Epicureans."

"Do you know the mortality rate among Epicureans?"

They spoke in fast and classical Latin because it was natural to them, though it caused the men in the prior's barge to wonder why their lord was concealing from them what he was saying to a woman and, even more wondrous, how a woman could understand it.

"Oh, but you are well come," Adelia said, "just in time to baptize my first delivery. It will comfort his parents, though he is a healthy, glorious child."

Adelia did not subscribe to the theory of Christian infant baptism, just as she didn't subscribe to any of what she regarded as barbarous tenets held by the world's three major faiths. A god who would not allow that baby upstairs into the Kingdom of Heaven if it died before being sprinkled with certain words and water was not a god she wanted anything to do with.

Reproduced with permission of Putnam Publishing. Copyright © 2008 by Ariana Franklin All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Overstory
    The Overstory
    by Richard Powers
    Many glowing adjectives can be used to describe a novel by Richard Powers: brilliant, moving, ...
  • Book Jacket: American Histories
    American Histories
    by John E. Wideman
    In American Histories, a collection of 21 short stories, John Edgar Wideman draws America's present ...
  • Book Jacket: I Found My Tribe
    I Found My Tribe
    by Ruth Fitzmaurice
    Ruth O'Neill was only 28 when she married film director Simon Fitzmaurice in 2004. Changing her...
  • Book Jacket: The Art of the Wasted Day
    The Art of the Wasted Day
    by Patricia Hampl
    Patricia Hampl wants you to know that daydreaming is not a waste of a day. Nor is spending time ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

A love story for things lost and restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Girl Who Smiled Beads
    by Clemantine Wamariya & Elizabeth Weil

    A riveting story of survival, and the power of stories to save us.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Leavers

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

One of the most anticipated books of 2017--now in paperback!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T E H N Clothes

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.