The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

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“The Essex Serpent” mines the sensation novels of Wilkie Collins, the antiquarian ghost stories of M.R. James and the social woes that run deep in Dickens’ later works.
-Star Tribune

Synopsis

The Sunday Times bestseller

'One of the most memorable historical novels of the past decade' - Sunday Times

Let THE ESSEX SERPENT wrap itself around you this summer

London 1893. When Cora Seaborne's husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness: her marriage was not a happy one, and she never suited the role of society wife. Accompanied by her son Francis - a curious, obsessive boy - she leaves town for Essex, where she hopes fresh air and open space will provide the refuge they need.

When they take lodgings in Colchester, rumours reach them from further up the estuary that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming human lives, has returned to the coastal parish of Aldwinter. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist with no patience for religion or superstition, is immediately enthralled, convinced that what the local people think is a magical beast may be a previously undiscovered species. As she sets out on its trail, she is introduced to William Ransome, Aldwinter's vicar.

Like Cora, Will is deeply suspicious of the rumours, but he thinks they are founded on moral panic, a flight from real faith. As he tries to calm his parishioners, he and Cora strike up an intense relationship, and although they agree on absolutely nothing, they find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart, eventually changing each other's lives in ways entirely unexpected.

Told with exquisite grace and intelligence, this novel is most of all a celebration of love, and the many different guises it can take.

 

About Sarah Perry

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Published May 27, 2016 by Serpent's Tail. 432 pages
Genres: History, Romance, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Essex Serpent
All: 5 | Positive: 5 | Negative: 0

Star Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes on Jun 19 2017

“The Essex Serpent” mines the sensation novels of Wilkie Collins, the antiquarian ghost stories of M.R. James and the social woes that run deep in Dickens’ later works.

Read Full Review of The Essex Serpent | See more reviews from Star Tribune

Financial Times

Good
Reviewed by Alex Preston on Jun 03 2016

The Essex Serpent is a historical novel with an entirely modern consciousness, and is every bit as gripping and unusual as its predecessor.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Jennifer Senior on Jun 07 2017

At times, their arguments are a bit heavy-handed, their themes too bluntly expressed. But Perry is generally light on her toes. She has to be. It takes a gentle touch to create the proper awkwardness of two people in love.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by STEPHANIE CROSS on Jun 19 2016

Perry’s singular characters are drawn with a fondness that is both palpable and contagious, and the beautifully observed changing seasons permitted space to breathe, all making for pure pleasure.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by M John Harrison on Jun 16 2016

Fertile, open, vocal about its own origins and passions, crammed with incident, characters and plot...It is a novel of ideas, though its sensibility is firmly, consciously, even a little cheekily, gothic...Narrative and voice coil together until it is very difficult to stop reading...

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