The Essex Serpent

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry (Serpent’s Tail, 2016)

Introduced by Felicity Carswell

Getting this beautiful book as a Christmas present (from a friend in Hay-on-Wye) meant that I had ample time to get stuck into its intricate and compelling narrative.
Perry takes her reader back to late 19th century Essex and embeds us in the life of Cora Seaborne. A recent widow, Cora doesn’t grieve the loss of her husband but embraces the newfound freedom from the constraints and definitions that he had placed upon her. She is a brilliantly crafted character who’s depth of intellect, fascination with natural history and sense of humour makes her intriguing and means that the relationships she forms are equally interesting.
At the heart of the book is the search for the fabled Essex serpent, who’s mythic existence has taken hold of the superstitions and fears of the local folk. Although the question of whether it is real or not burbles along throughout the novel, it is the friendship between Cora and local vicar Will Ransome and his family that takes centre stage. The outcome is surprising and beautifully unpredictable.
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This is a novel about people confounding stereotypical assumptions – whether that be about about gender, science, faith or relationships. Although Perry takes us back to the 19th century, the issues and questions are the same ones that ricochet around our time.
A clever, wonderfully crafted novel that brought much enjoyment as I lost myself in it this Christmas.
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Last month, The Essex Serpent was named Waterstones 2016 Book of the Year.
Cover of the hardback edition, published May 2016

4 thoughts on “The Essex Serpent

  1. I am so glad to read this nice review – I just finished The Essex Serpent last night, after an almost straight read-through ( no Netflix, but yes, dinner.)
    After finishing the book, I read most of the major English reviews ( it hasn’t come out yet here in the states) – all good, of course. But here’s a perhaps silly comment: am I the only one to have interpreted Cora’s name, Seaborne, from the start, as a kind of clue, one that links her studies and passions to the tides and the Blackwater and the serpent in question? No reviewer has mentioned it, but maybe it’s just obvious.
    In any case, thanks for this lovely review.
    Karen Abada, Montclair, NJ

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Karen, thank you so much for your beautiful card (received twice, so doubly appreciated!). What a lovely surprise. I loved the card/booklet – you are so talented. Thanks for your encouraging words too. I hope we will enjoy some more posts from you in 2017. With all best wishes for the coming year, Emma


      1. I’m so glad you liked the card – at least we know that both of our postal services are still working!
        And I’ve just thought of a little bookie thing for you, should be getting round to it soon.
        Hope you’re enjoying your winter! best,Karen


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