• Hardcover: 432 pages
• Publisher: Custom House (June 6, 2017)
Costa Book Award Finalist, Waterstones Book of the Year, winner of the British Book Awards Fiction Book of the Year and overall Book of the Year
“[T]he most deeply satisfying fiction you will read this year.”
–Waterstones Book of the Year
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, London).
Hello all! Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. I received an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review of it.
The Essex Serpent is a historical fiction novel set in the Victorian era. We follow a recently widowed Cora who having gained her independence from an abusive husband travels to Essex. Rumors of a fabled sea serpent rising from the depths of the sea as a result of an earthquake draws her attention, as well as an unlikely friendship with the local vicar who is struggling to assuage the fear from the townspeople on the basis of faith.
I knew next to nothing going into my reading of this book and I am really glad. For some reason I thought it was purely a romance book but when I started reading it I was pleasantly surprised. I have been missing a book like this in my life for awhile.
The Essex Serpent is gothic-esque in its atmosphere and feel. It reminded me of the books that made me fall in love with English Literature in college like works written by Wilkie Collins. The language and writing was just beautiful and I found myself deeply absorbed in the story from the get go because the whole Victorian era, gothic vibe was just beautifully done in this book.
There are a slew of interesting themes to take away from this book but the one that drew me the most was the relationship between religion and science, which we see embodied in two of our main characters.
This was a super interesting, super absorbing book. It was dark, beautiful and creepy at times. It’s not a super fast paced read as most classics aren’t (and this book was so similar to a classic in writing style) but if you love the style of Victorian literature and gothic literature you will love this book! I can’t wait to see more from this author!
Also, isn’t this cover just gorgeous?!
About Sarah Perry
Sarah Perry was born in Essex in 1979. Her first novel, After Me Comes the Flood, was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Folio Prize. She lives in Norwich. The Essex Serpent is her American debut.