The Essex SerpenteBook - 2017
An American debut of an award-winning book from England is set in the late-19th century and follows the experiences of an intellectually minded young widow and a pious vicar who investigate rumors about a mythical sea creature that has been blamed for a death in coastal Essex.
A Kirkus Review Best Book of 2017 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 séance. This is the best new novel I’ve read in years" (Daily Telegraph).
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Set in the late Victorian era, recent widow Cora Seaborne leaves London with her son Francis, and loyal companion Martha and journeys to Aldwinter, a small village in Essex, where a legendary fearsome creature called the Essex Serpent has been sighted. Cora, who is more interested in the study of nature as an amateur naturalist, would rather be tramping about the countryside free from the strictures of society and the trappings of her gender, is determined to find proof of this creature. Through mutual acquaintances, she is introduced to the Ransome family - William the local reverend, his devoted yet sickly wife Stella and their three children. While Cora looks for scientific reasoning for the serpent, William dismisses it as superstition and a deviation from true faith. Cora and Will’s friendship is both forged and exasperated by their differing opinions as they can agree on absolutely nothing, yet both are drawn toward the other. Their friendship is threatened with the arrival of Cora’s friend Luke Garrett a skilled surgeon who carries a not-so-secret torch for Cora. In the end, a fatal illness, a knife-wielding maniac, and a fated union with the Essex Serpent will dictate the happiness of these characters.
A perfect time of the year to sit back and enjoy transporting to a time in England where the belief in mythical creatures and modern science coexisted side by side. Where Londoners traveled by tube and horse drawn carriages, used both electricity and candlelight, and experimented with modern medicine. Perry writes a novel filled with beautiful prose that is atmospheric and a touch gothic, filled with wonderfully drawn characters who offer social commentary on the debate between science and religion, social issues in London, as well as examining the varied nature of love through each of the characters who orbit around Cora. Awarded British Book of the Year and gathering increasing attention, a wonderful read that will delight readers of literary and historical fiction as well as providing plenty of discussion for book clubs.
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