The Essex Serpent - Sarah Perry

Genre: Historical Fiction
Synopsis: 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.


Review: Oooh, what a pretty, pretty book. The cover is beautiful, the writing is exquisite. I had a lull while reading this - the writing is what I would call flowery and dense - more than once I got to the end of a sentence and then had to return to the beginning to put the ending into the context of the beginning because the sentence was about as complicated as this one. Yep. The lull occurred simply because I needed something lighter for my simple brain to digest. However, it was very easy to pick this book back up even after a break, as it is not difficult or complicated - in fact, the plot is quite simple.

I am knocking off one star for that reason - if the plot had as much detail or as much happening as the writing itself did, this would have been one hell of a busy book. But in the end, it lacked a little bit of substance, in my opinion. I still loved it, but I wasn't blown away, not by the characters, nor their interactions, nor the revelations behind the serpent itself (the mystery of which was, for me, the driving force of the novel, as the relationship between Will and Cora was inexplicable at worst and uncompelling at best.). All the same, it was such a beautifully written book that I'm more than happy to have read it.

Perry has another novel out (shorter than this one), which does not have such good reviews, so I am wary of reading it, but I've already got it so I'll give it a fair go. If you have any interest in non-traditional female characters in Victorian times, and flowery writing, you'll enjoy The Essex Serpent.

Rating: 4/5 

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