The Essex Serpent

The Essex Serpent

eBook - 2017
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Baker & Taylor
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.

HARPERCOLL

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).



Publisher: Custom House,, 2017
ISBN: 9780062666390
0062666398
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Additional Contributors: Baker & Taylor Axis 360
Alternative Title: Axis 360 eBooks

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SPL_Brittany Oct 09, 2017

For a full review see the Summary section. Review first published in the Stratford Gazette October 2017.

1
1_Great_Book
Sep 28, 2017

Plodding with too many pages. A good subject that could have been honed into a better work.

b
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.

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SPL_Brittany Oct 09, 2017

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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