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The Essex Serpent (2016)

by Sarah Perry

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,1751754,258 (3.63)282
Set in Victorian London and an Essex village in the 1890's, and enlivened by the debates on scientific and medical discovery which defined the era, The Essex Serpent has at its heart the story of two extraordinary people who fall for each other, but not in the usual way. They are Cora Seaborne and Will Ransome. Cora is a well-to-do London widow who moves to the Essex parish of Aldwinter, and Will is the local vicar. They meet as their village is engulfed by rumours that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming human lives, has returned. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist is enthralled, convinced the beast may be a real undiscovered species. But Will sees his parishioners' agitation as a moral panic, a deviation from true faith. Although they can agree on absolutely nothing, as the seasons turn around them in this quiet corner of England, they find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart. Told with exquisite grace and intelligence, this novel is most of all a celebration of love, and the many different guises it can take.… (more)
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    The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times by Xan Brooks (wandering_star)
    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 (167)  Hungarian (1)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  Latvian (1)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (174)
Showing 1-5 of 167 (next | show all)
I enjoyed every image and every word in this novel. ( )
  Bambean | May 20, 2024 |
Despite the ever-present sinister malevolence hanging in the air throughout this story, I liked it. The characters are well-developed with complex, multi-level inter-relationships, and Juanita McMahon's narration is excellent. ( )
  TraSea | Apr 29, 2024 |
Wonderful writing, interesting story, wish something a little crazier had happened at the end. ( )
  RaynaPolsky | Apr 23, 2024 |
I struggled to like this book. I found myself comparing it - unfavourably - with Francis Spufford's 'Golden Rain', since both books were written in the language of the period in which they were set.

The book has a range of characters and a range of subplots. Many of the characters were so loosely defined, as well as the subplots they supported, that I struggled to make sense of them. Maria? Who, really, was she, and what did her social conscience bring to the story? Naomi's contribution to the book underwhelmed me.

Cora, William Ransome, Stella, the Imp, Francis - these all interested me and when they were 'on stage', the story moved onward. Their letters I found illuminated their characters and the story itself and I looked forward to the interludes when they were printed. I believed in each of the major characters in a way I was unable to when one of the many 'walk on' characters was playing his or her part.

I liked the sense of place . I don't know Essex at all, and found the way in which it was described, making it so central to the story itself, sympathetic, and I was absorbed when the area itself became the subject of the writing.

In general though, I was disappointed. I wanted to get this book out of the way so I could get on with something that was for me more rewarding. ( )
  Margaret09 | Apr 15, 2024 |
It was very well written and definitely had strong Victorian elements. The thought less clerk spurring a vengeful murder attempt and the lost child rediscovered by chance with a friendly poor person were pure Dickens. Even the quirky female characters were not too different from Wilkie Collin's heroines.Of course the explicit sex scenes and adultery were not as openly discussed in your average victorian work. I'm hard pressed to say why I'm not giving it more stars, it was an exploration of love in so many different forms that, to a certain extent , worked. I think the Victorian format left me wanting a more black and white story with an outright happy ending ( )
  cspiwak | Mar 6, 2024 |
Showing 1-5 of 167 (next | show all)
Volatility infects the politics of the novel: the narrative, moving restlessly between the city and the marshes, concerns itself increasingly with “the problem of London”, the relationship between governance, business and poverty summed up in slum renting, slum life – the endless, insoluble matter of how privilege can be persuaded to act outside its own interests, or even see beyond its own limits. In the tenement dwellers of Bethnal Green, Charles Ambrose – otherwise, we are led to believe, a decent man – sees “not equals separated from him only by luck and circumstance, but creatures born ill-equipped to survive the evolutionary race”. From this distance it seems impossible to give him the benefit of the doubt. Perry extends her considerable generosity not just to her characters but to the whole late Victorian period, with its fears for the present and curious faith in the future;
added by KayCliff | editGuardian, John Harrison (Jun 16, 2016)
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Perry, Sarahprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bonné, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brovelli, ChiaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dyer, PeterCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fagel, RolandTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gerson, NatashaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Laferrière, ChristineTranslatorsecondary 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
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For Stephen Crowe
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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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Set in Victorian London and an Essex village in the 1890's, and enlivened by the debates on scientific and medical discovery which defined the era, The Essex Serpent has at its heart the story of two extraordinary people who fall for each other, but not in the usual way. They are Cora Seaborne and Will Ransome. Cora is a well-to-do London widow who moves to the Essex parish of Aldwinter, and Will is the local vicar. They meet as their village is engulfed by rumours that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming human lives, has returned. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist is enthralled, convinced the beast may be a real undiscovered species. But Will sees his parishioners' agitation as a moral panic, a deviation from true faith. Although they can agree on absolutely nothing, as the seasons turn around them in this quiet corner of England, they find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart. Told with exquisite grace and intelligence, this novel is most of all a celebration of love, and the many different guises it can take.

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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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