The Essex Serpent

The Essex Serpent

by Sarah Perry


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A Kirkus Review Best Book of 2017 and a Washington Post Notable Work of Fiction. Winner of the British Book Awards Fiction Book of the Year and overall Book of the Year, selected as the Waterstones Book of the Year, and a Costa Book Award Finalist

"A novel of almost insolent ambition—lush and fantastical, a wild Eden behind a garden's part ghost story and part natural history lesson, part romance and part feminist parable. I found it so transporting that 48 hours after completing it, I was still resentful to be back home."  -New York Times

“An irresistible new novel…the most delightful heroine since Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice…By the end, The Essex Serpent identifies a mystery far greater than some creature ‘from the illuminated margins of a manuscript’: friendship.”  -Washington Post

"Richly enjoyable... Ms. Perry writes beautifully and sometimes agreeably sharply... The Essex Serpent is a wonderfully satisfying novel. Ford Madox Ford thought the glory of the novel was its ability to make the reader think and feel at the same time. This one does just that." -Wall Street Journal

An exquisitely talented young British author makes her American debut with this rapturously acclaimed historical novel, set in late nineteenth-century England, about an intellectually minded young widow, a pious vicar, and a rumored mythical serpent that explores questions about science and religion, skepticism, and faith, independence and love.

When Cora Seaborne’s brilliant, domineering husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness: her marriage was not a happy one. Wed at nineteen, this woman of exceptional intelligence and curiosity was ill-suited for the role of society wife. Seeking refuge in fresh air and open space in the wake of the funeral, Cora leaves London for a visit to coastal Essex, accompanied by her inquisitive and obsessive eleven-year old son, Francis, and the boy’s nanny, Martha, her fiercely protective friend.

While admiring the sites, Cora learns of an intriguing rumor that has arisen further up the estuary, of a fearsome creature said to roam the marshes claiming human lives. After nearly 300 years, the mythical Essex Serpent is said to have returned, taking the life of a young man on New Year’s Eve. A keen amateur naturalist with no patience for religion or superstition, Cora is immediately enthralled, and certain that what the local people think is a magical sea beast may be a previously undiscovered species. Eager to investigate, she is introduced to local vicar William Ransome. Will, too, is suspicious of the rumors. But unlike Cora, this man of faith is convinced the rumors are caused by moral panic, a flight from true belief.

These seeming opposites who agree on nothing soon find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart—an intense relationship that will change both of their lives in ways entirely unexpected.

Hailed by Sarah Waters as "a work of great intelligence and charm, by a hugely talented author," The Essex Serpent is "irresistible . . . you can feel the influences of Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, and Hilary Mantel channeled by Perry in some sort of Victorian séance. This is the best new novel I’ve read in years" (Daily Telegraph).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062666376
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/06/2017
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 233,755
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.45(d)

About the Author

Sarah Perry is the internationally bestselling author of The Essex Serpent and After Me Comes the Flood. She lives in England.

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The Essex Serpent: A Novel 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How pleased I am to be the first to write a review of this amazing new novel ! Sarah Perry is to be congratulated on so many levels --- a grabber of a plot, interesting characters , beautiful descriptions of the settings , intelligent language ! Would love to have given this book even more stars!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mildly interesting but really a long drawn out story about nothing. You could make it into a tale full of metaphors and generate meaning that isn't there. In the end, it is really only what you want to make it into and nothing really special.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Evocative , a wonderful main character in Cora and all the other characters . Loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An interesting view of intertwined lives and loves, misunderstanding and knowledge gained, growth and loss.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ending was a surprise & disappointment
SheilaDeeth 5 months ago
Set in Victorian times, the Essex Serpent brings together a diverse cast of characters--carrying them from London’s busy streets to a quiet village on the Essex marshes--then stirs, simmers and repeats. There’s a child who can’t relate to the world’s assumptions, a widow who’s really not in search of a new husband, a pastor whose perfect family hides a hint of tragedy, a doctor, a philanthropist, politics and more. All are woven together with evocative description and hints of mystery. Why doesn’t she want to remarry? Why might the pastor be tempted? And what lies hidden in the mist? Essex fog parallels the fog of human emotions in this tale. Essex legend parallels human assumptions. And Essex reality is as vivid in the book as it was when I lived there. The story is slow, haunting, and oddly beautiful. The serpent is like the elephant in the living rooms of dreams, and the tensions between scientific investigation, faithful conviction, and human need are beautifully depicted. I enjoyed this novel for its faith vs science hints and its foreshadowing of modern days. But I also enjoyed the slowly growing mystery and resolution. A very neat telling of a very tortuous tale! Disclosure: I needed something to read on a train in England, and it fit the bill perfectly.
onemused More than 1 year ago
"The Essex Serpent" is an interesting historical fiction that follows a town in the 1890s as they fear the mythical Essex Serpent. We primarily follow a young widow, Cora, and a local vicar, Will. Much of the story seems to revolve around medical ailments and care of the time (tuberculosis, old surgical techniques, etc.), which can be rather intense/graphic to read about with the descriptions given in the book (particularly about surgeries). While the description focuses on a romance between Cora and Will, I felt like this was a very small piece of the overall story, and I am not sure I would even discuss it in the context of the book as it seems so secondary or tertiary to everything else going on. I did not personally get into the romance, as the passion just did not seem to be there for me. In terms of historical fiction (forgetting the romance), I found it really interesting and particularly the descriptions of the medical knowledge of the time. The book really takes you back in time, and for that reason, I found it decently engaging. Please note that I received a copy through a goodreads giveaway. All opinions are my own.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago