The Essex Serpent

The Essex Serpent

A Novel

Book - 2017
Average Rating:
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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 seance. This is the best new novel I've read in years" (Daily Telegraph, London)"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York, NY : Custom House, 2017
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780062666376 (hardback)
0062666371 (hardback)
(international edition)
Branch Call Number: FIC PERRY
Characteristics: 416 pages ; 22 cm

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brangwinn
Sep 19, 2017

Hum, this wasn’t my favorite book, and I’m not sure why. It certainly tilted my vision of Victorian England. An independent wealthy widow with a Marxist loving assistant and a son who might be diagnosed as highly functioning autistic today. Cora leaves London for Essex because of her love of fossils. She finds a community worried about a sea monster, and she finds love in a strange place, a parsonage with a deep-thinking minister and his wife dying of tuberculosis. Add a wealthy London doctor who wants to put his fortune to good use, and a forward-thinking surgeon who is in love with the widow, Cora. All the elements are there for a good book, and it is excellent writing, descriptive and detailed but it didn’t suck me into the pages the way I expected it to do.

scissorsnglue Aug 30, 2017

A memorable book with interesting characters and wonderful atmosphere. I can see this book as a movie and hope it's on the cards.

e
EmilyEm
Aug 16, 2017

Recent widow and amateur naturalist Cora takes her companion Martha and son Frankie to the Essex coast. Here they are introduced to the story of the Essex Serpent and the family of the local vicar and residents in a coastal village. And, we stay in touch, as Cora does, with friends in London. Amazing stories every one. Narrative just simmers!

So many themes, so many characters, but all handled brilliantly by this young author. This book takes historical fiction to a whole new level. Quite an accomplishment. I’m sure this will be among my Best Books of 2017. Read more about fossil hunter Mary Anning and the hunt for prehistoric creatures in Tracy Chevalier’s wonderful book ‘Remarkable Creatures.’

HMWLibrary2017 Aug 11, 2017

Overly contrived and silly. I only gave it two stars because the descriptions of nature are beautiful - otherwise it would've gotten only one from me.

l
laphampeak
Aug 06, 2017

This book was well written and had greater potential than was reached. The setting, the characters, the relationships all had a place for the most part. A few situations seemed to be included with no meaning - the Socialists of the time, for example. It seemed to me that the anticipation in the development of relationships - mother to son, neighbor to neighbor, women to man - all came to a disappointment. I waited for some redeeming value. This novel had keen description and detail but even lacked intrigue in the main serpent theme. Coulda shoulda woulda.

l
lxydis
Aug 03, 2017

Overhyped, overrated, and derivative of many (superior) novels by (say) AS Byatt or Wilkie Collins or iris murdoch. Also the characters were unsympathetic and the book was tedious beyond belief

s
susanchyn
Jul 31, 2017

Beautiful writing, if dense. Did not love this book, but I respect it.

liljables Jul 23, 2017

Sarah Perry's "The Essex Serpent" was longlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction this year, and many folks in the literary sphere were surprised when it didn't make the cut for the shortlist. There are many things I loved about this novel, but I'll just share two: first, it dispels the myth that Victorian England is ancient history. Set just over 100 years ago, the characters in The Essex Serpent are able to ride the Tube, and they enjoy the benefit of electric lights. We might scoff at the idea that people would believe in a sea monster, but in many ways, day-to-day life was not all that different then. Second, and another product of the era, is the delightful tension between faith and science, embodied by the characters of Cora and Will. Both highly educated for the time, but...running in very different circles, shall we say, the dissonance between them kept me engaged in every page of this story.

a
abookandacuppa
Jul 09, 2017

Cora Seaborne, an unlikely heroine, embraces science and mystery. Set in Victorian England, the people of Aldwinter are uneasy when rumors of a serpent abound. Is there a creature lurking in the waters or are the problems within the village created by the power of suggestion?

t
toby65
Jul 07, 2017

Beautifully written story of manners, morals, love, friendship and science in Victorian England.
The best novel I have read in months. 5*****

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