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The Essex Serpent
Cover of The Essex Serpent
The Essex Serpent
A Novel
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Costa Book Award Finalist and the Waterstones (UK) Book of the Year 2016"I loved this book. At once numinous, intimate and wise, The Essex Serpent is a marvelous novel about the workings of life, love...
Costa Book Award Finalist and the Waterstones (UK) Book of the Year 2016"I loved this book. At once numinous, intimate and wise, The Essex Serpent is a marvelous novel about the workings of life, love...
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  • Costa Book Award Finalist and the Waterstones (UK) Book of the Year 2016

    "I loved this book. At once numinous, intimate and wise, The Essex Serpent is a marvelous novel about the workings of life, love and belief, about science and religion, secrets, mysteries, and the complicated and unexpected shifts of the human heart—and it contains some of the most beautiful evocations of place and landscape I've ever read. It is so good its pages seem lit from within. As soon as I'd finished it I started reading it again."—Helen MacDonald, author of H is for Hawk

    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).

About the Author-

  • Sarah Perry's first novel, After Me Comes the Flood, was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Folio Prize, and won the East Anglian Book of the Year Award. She was born in Essex and lives in Norwich, England.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 17, 2017
    In Perry’s (After Me Comes the Flood) excellent second novel, set in the Victorian era, recent widow Cora Seaborne leaves London with her 11-year-old son, Francis, and loyal companion, Martha, and goes to Colchester, where a legendary, fearsome creature called the Essex Serpent has been sighted. Scholarly Cora, who is more interested in the study of nature than in womanly matters of dress, tramps about in a man’s tweed coat, determined to find proof of this creature’s existence. Through friends, she is introduced to William Ransome, the local reverend; his devoted wife, Stella; and their three children. Cora looks for a scientific rationale for the Essex Serpent, while Ransome dismisses it as superstition. This puts them at odds with one another, but, strangely, also acts as a powerful source of attraction between them. When Cora is visited by her late husband’s physician, Luke Garrett, who carries a not-so-secret torch for her, a love triangle of sorts is formed. In the end, a fatal illness, a knife-wielding maniac, and a fated union with the Essex Serpent will dictate the ultimate happiness of these characters. Like John Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman, whose Lyme Regis setting gets a shout-out here, this is another period literary pastiche with a contemporary overlay. Cora makes for a fiercely independent heroine around whom all the other characters orbit.

  • AudioFile Magazine An array of adjectives comes to mind at the opening words of this audiobook: alluring, poetic, with an air of exactness and aged wisdom. The setting is late-nineteenth-century England, and the story involves a young widow, a vicar, and a serpent. But it's really about so much more as it asks questions about independence, faith, and love. Narrator Juanita McMahon expertly inhabits its sharp-tongued, sweet-spirited, stoic, wondrous characters. Her vocal characterizations are gothically charming. She virtually becomes imperious Cora Seaborne, questioning Reverend Ransome, and crabby old-man Cracknell. Her voice enlarges the book's legends and mythical tales. Painting pictures with her intonations, McMahon makes clear distinctions between the numerous characters who shape Perry's second novel. A superb narration! T.E.C. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award � AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine

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