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The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
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The Essex Serpent (2016)

by Sarah Perry

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,4181028,004 (3.73)187
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    wandering_star: Something about the writing style of The Clocks In This House... really reminded me of The Essex Serpent, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Then I saw a tweet from Sarah Perry saying how much she enjoyed The Clocks In This House... - so there must have been something to it!… (more)
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English (104)  Spanish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (106)
Showing 1-5 of 104 (next | show all)
A well-written book, with well-plotted layers and subtext. Alas, it’s not cohesive enough, maybe owing to the omnipresent head-hopping style. Occasionally, I forgot I was reading a book set in 1893. It’s worse fault, though, is the likely error of the marketing department. The blurb promises one thing, the book another. Readers expect a developing romance wrapped around a mystery. The ‘Serpent’ of the title is a creature not so much myth as misunderstood. It is often figurative, a metaphor, subtext…which might be fine if it did not lead readers to believe otherwise. As for the romance, I had patience for that until around 60 pages from the end when my emotions turned to exasperation and disgust. I so wanted to say I loved this book but have to settle for liking it. The true heroine of the book reads, to me, as Stella and that’s a stretch. The writer may tell the story he or she wants, of course, and it’s true that humans are imperfect. Again, I sense that the novel’s marketing leads one to expect something it’s not and so does the author and novel no favours. This is not a mystery, and not a romance. It’s a set of characters and a slice of their shared histories. ( )
  SharonMariaBidwell | Jan 14, 2019 |
I wanted to like this book so much more than I did. It sounds wonderful: an intellectually voracious lady finally freed from an abusive marriage pursues her interest in paleontology along with her [autistic] son & bosom companion [a gay socialist]. She treasures her old friends & makes new ones, including a new romance in a town that is currently being 'menaced' by its own version of the Loch Ness monster (see title). But unfortunately, this disjointed story's uneven writing made many portions of this book a slog. ( )
  epaulettes | Jan 3, 2019 |
The story takes place in the 1890’s, and has the feel of a Victorian novel, not just a novel written as an historical novel. It explores science and medical advances vs. religion; a women’s place in society; politics and the treatment of the poor and their substandard housing, all things that still resonate today. It also looks at love and friendship. Cora Seaborne is recently widowed and feels freed from an abusive marriage. She sets about finding herself and allowing herself to follow her love of science. She moves from London to an Essex village called Aldwinter, and there forgoes trying to be beautiful, dresses in a man’s coat and boots and gets down and dirty in the mud alongside the water of the Blackwater River where the mythical Essex Serpent has been rumored to have returned. She is introduced through friends to the the local vicar Will Ransome and his beautiful sickly wife Stella. Cora and Will strike up an odd friendship where his religious beliefs and her scientific beliefs clash and cause discussions that pull them together rather than push them apart. The many secondary characters are as interesting as the main characters, and the underlying fear of the unknown “serpent” adds an atmosphere that pulled me along through the story. I am very glad that I read it.

Read July 2018 ( )
  NanaCC | Dec 31, 2018 |
Het kostte me moeite om in dit boek te komen. Ik vond het te bloemrijk, te uitgesponnen. Maar opeens, na een bladzij of 100, zat ik er helemaal in en toen liet het me niet meer los. Prachtig geschreven met mooie verhaallijnen die uiteindelijk allemaal goed zijn afgewerkt. Indrukwekkend hoe de relatie tussen Cora (onafhankelijk, weduwe) en William (de dominee, getrouwd met Stella) beschreven wordt. Maar ook verliefdheden die niet worden beantwoord, de rol die het monster speelt in het dorpje, het autistische zoontje van Cora en zijn relatie met Stella ... Genieten! ( )
  elsmvst | Dec 25, 2018 |
Yeah it combines the sensibilities of a Victorian novel with a modern one, but I'm not sure that worked for me. The spunky nonconformist protagonist is kind of a cliche nowadays, and while it starts out looking as though she's going to be doing research on fossils and so on, that fizzles out. The author really likes writing lyrical descriptions of moonlight, the ocean, seasons changing.... meh. Some of the characters and emotions felt true, others felt very wrong. There are interesting social themes, like income inequality and reform, and science versus religion but I was ultimately disappointed. Too bad, this could have been just my kind of thing, but it's no French Lieutenant's Woman or Possession. ( )
  piemouth | Dec 13, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Perry, Sarahprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bonné, EvaÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brovelli, ChiaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dyer, PeterCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fagel, RolandTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gerson, NatashaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McMahon, JuanitaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morris, WilliamCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
If you press me to say why I loved him, I can say no more than because he was he, and I was I.

Michel de Montaigne, On Friendship
Dedication
For Stephen Crowe
First words
A young man walks down by the banks of the Blackwater under the full cold moon.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
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. [retrieved 8/30/17 from Amazon.com]
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"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 seance. This is the best new novel I've read in years" (Daily Telegraph, London)"-- When Cora Seaborne's domineering husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness. Seeking refuge, Cora leaves London for a visit to coastal Essex, accompanied by her son, Francis, and the boy's nanny, Martha, her fiercely protective friend. Cora learns of a fearsome creature said to roam the marshes claiming human lives. After nearly 300 years, the mythical Essex Serpent is said to have taken the life of a young man on New Year's Eve. Certain that the "sea beast" may be a previously undiscovered species, Cora joins local vicar William Ransome in investigating the rumors.… (more)

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