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The Essex Serpent (Compact Disc)
There’s a lot happening in The Essex Serpent, much of it sleight of hand: Perry has us consumed with the status of the serpent, the very idea of which is terrorizing the villages around the Essex marshes, and drawing studious naturalists from London. Is it there or isn’t it? Because until we know, we have no idea what kind of book this is--is the beast a judgment from the Almighty? Or an aquatic anomaly, some creature believed extinct but still living? Or is it something completely innocent, warped into a monster by a willing mind? Meanwhile, the characters, vibrant and compelling, sneak up on us and usurp our fascination with the serpent.
Perry’s hit on a fruitful seam in British history: Essex in the 17th century was the site of witch trials and a real panic about a mysterious creature in the water, and simultaneously, class resentment was simmering in London. The cast includes characters at every level of society: Cora Seaborne, a young widow who can’t help but be relieved at the death of her emotionally and physically abusive husband and the privilege she’s inherited; her bright but withdrawn 11-year old son, Francis; Martha, her passionately Marxist companion, dead set on housing reform; Charles and Katherine Ambrose, unapologetically wealthy but generous; Drs. Luke Garrett and George Spencer, one a brilliant but tortured surgeon, and his friend, endlessly supportive and a glutton for punishment; and the Ransomes: the Rev. Will, a foil to Cora’s rationalism and dedicated to his parish; his wife Stella--fey, beautiful, and tragic; and their brilliant, charming children. And that’s not even the entire cast: even characters with walk-on parts are memorable but Cora in particular, is incandescent.— Sarah, Longfellow Books
June 2017 Indie Next List
“If you love mystery, Victorian England, and exploring the tension between science and religion, you will love The Essex Serpent. Many contemporary authors manage to evoke for readers that experience of reading Jane Austen or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for the first time. The real miracle of Sarah Perry is that she manages to do so with a completely fresh voice. With beautiful sentences and characters and landscapes so well-crafted you feel you've been there, The Essex Serpent captures the imagination and manages to deliver the sense of wisdom only good literature can.”
— Tina Ontiveros (W), Klindt's Booksellers, The Dalles, OR
Summer 2018 Reading Group Indie Next List
“Sarah Perry’s Essex Serpent is as intricate, sublime, deep, dark, and mysterious as its titular character. I found myself entranced by the people populating this novel’s backwoods Victorian Essex and busy, gloomy London and the clashes they have at the borders of faith and reason, love and social justice.”
— Megan Bell, Underground Books, Carrollton, GA
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's ance. This is the best new novel I've read in years (Daily Telegraph, London).