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The Essex Serpent is nearly flawless and maintains a quiet and human scaled sense of suspense throughout that will keep you eagerly reading.
The characters are believably eccentric. I found myself liking aspects of them all and feeling concerned for their welfare. Love between the different characters (or lack of it), is depicted in fresh, real, and complicated ways. A mother can’t quite connect with her son; a widow feels relief at the death of her husband; with a sense of guilt, a woman uses another’s unrequited affection to achieve larger good.
While I have heard much made of the “Victorian” setting, this book comes across as era-less to me. Its story, humanity, and the issues it addresses are universal and beyond dictates of style and fashion.
This is one of those books with which you find yourself relieved and contented to be spending time with. It is a near effortless read that is intelligently written. Unusually, it is also one that I will find easy to recommend to a broad spectrum of readers.
— Barbette Houser
When a young widow moves with her son and companion to a small village in Essex, she first hears of the legendary Essex Serpent. As the the monster begins to infect her life, and the lives of the other villagers, she is drawn into their world of marsh and fog. The Essex Serpent is part mystery, part love story, part portrait of life in Victorian England. Like the mysterious serpent, the novel morphs and shifts seamlessly between threads and characters, all held together by Perry's spectacularly assured prose. It's immersive, intoxicating, and unforgettable.
— Tyler Goodson
An NPR and Kirkus Review Best Book of 2017, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, 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 gate...it'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 seance. This is the best new novel I've read in years" (Daily Telegraph).
Coverage from NPR
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