Fiction

Ruth’s debut novel, published 2010, drew on her first-hand experience of wildlife conservation in Asian jungle.


Where the Serpent Lives

Set in Indian forests, Devon woodland, and 2005 London over the summer of the 7/7 terrorist attacks, Where the Serpent Lives braids together love and terror, wildlife science and human relations with the animal world.

Rosamund, married to dangerously charismatic and philandering Tyler, alienated from her zoologist father, despairing of her teenage son’s silences, feels cut off from everything, including the world of her Indian childhood. What if she goes back into it? Rustling with animals of which humans are unaware, this is a page-turning tale of love, terror, renewal, and the place of wild nature in all our lives.

‘A novel you will not lightly forget. Only Emily Brontë has embraced Padel’s radical and sympathetic inclusiveness of creaturely life,’ Guardian 

‘An intensely readable parable of love and fear,’ Daily Mail

‘Mystery in moments that focus on a family of foxes in the garden, a gecko in a study, a badger sett: the wordless world of animals watching humans,’ Times Literary Supplement

‘The prose glitters on the page in this story of a woman’s journey of rediscovery to the jungles of India, the land where she grew up.’ Vogue

Where the Serpent Lives moves between a tangle of human relationships and environment under threat. She brings a poet’s intensity to her prose: objects, plants, and the wildlife that stalk her pages are all fiercely observed. In the jungle, elephants and tigers are under threat from poachers, forests felled for financial gain, corruption and uncaring officialdom result in habitats lost, and species disappearing. But India’s jungle brings about change for all the characters and Padel pulls the reader into the heart of it. Nature is her forte and in the wild she sings her best song.’ Spectator

‘I didn’t want to stop reading once I’d started, mainly because of Padel’s fiercely brilliant way of noticing. She has a great sense of myth and an exquisite way of telling a story.’  Andrew O’ Hagan

‘She writes thrillingly – the extraordinary nature of the king cobra, the intense, heady, sensory jungle are wonderful subjects for a poet’s pen. A picture is slowly painted of its million years of evolution, its ancient, extraordinary otherness. The novel is full of shocking statistics about wildlife losses across the world but Padel never preaches. Her voice rings with passion and authority.’ The Tablet

‘Magical,’ Time Out Mumbai

‘A nature lover’s delight… compelling, acute, lyrical, surprisingly readable. She has done for the forests of Karnataka and Bengal what Amitav Ghosh did for the Sundarbans in The Hungry Tide,’ India Today