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The Essex Serpent: A Novel
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HarperCollins 2017
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Description

NOW AN APPLE TV+ SERIES

A Washington Post Notable Work of Fiction * Winner of the British Book Awards Fiction Book of the Year and overall Book of the Year *A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of The Year * Waterstones Book of the Year * Costa Book Award Finalist

"A novel of almost insolent ambition—lush and fantastical, a wild Eden behind a garden gate...it's part ghost story and part natural history lesson, part romance and part feminist parable. I found it so transporting that 48 hours after completing it, I was still resentful to be back home." —New York Times

London, 1893. 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 an unhappy one, and she never suited the role of society wife. Seeking refuge in fresh air and open space, she leaves the metropolis for coastal Essex, accompanied by her inquisitive and obsessive eleven-year-old son, Francis, and the boy's nanny, Martha, her fiercely protective friend.

Once there, they hear rumors that after nearly three hundred years, the mythical Essex Serpent, a fearsome creature that once roamed the marshes, has returned. When a young man is mysteriously killed on New Year's Eve, the community's dread transforms to terror. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist with no patience for religion or superstition, is immediately enthralled, certain that what locals think is a magical sea beast may be a previously undiscovered species.

Eager to investigate, she is introduced to parish vicar William Ransome, who is equally suspicious of the rumors but for different reasons: a man of faith, he is convinced the alarming reports are caused by moral panic, a flight from the correct and righteous path. As Cora and William attempt to discover the truth about the Essex Serpent's existence, these seeming opposites find themselves inexorably drawn together in an intense relationship that will change both of them in ways entirely unexpected. And as they search for answers, Cora's London past follows her to the coast, with striking consequences.

Told with exquisite grace and intelligence, The Essex Serpent masterfully explores questions of science and religion, skepticism and faith, but it is most of all a celebration of love, and the many different—and surprising—guises it can take.

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Format:
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Street Date:
06/06/2017
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780062666390
ASIN:
B01M0HPKE6
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APA Citation (style guide)

Sarah Perry. (2017). The Essex Serpent: A Novel. HarperCollins.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Sarah Perry. 2017. The Essex Serpent: A Novel. HarperCollins.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Sarah Perry, The Essex Serpent: A Novel. HarperCollins, 2017.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Sarah Perry. The Essex Serpent: A Novel. HarperCollins, 2017.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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fullDescription

NOW AN APPLE TV+ SERIES

A Washington Post Notable Work of Fiction * Winner of the British Book Awards Fiction Book of the Year and overall Book of the Year *A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of The Year * Waterstones Book of the Year * Costa Book Award Finalist

"A novel of almost insolent ambition—lush and fantastical, a wild Eden behind a garden gate...it's part ghost story and part natural history lesson, part romance and part feminist parable. I found it so transporting that 48 hours after completing it, I was still resentful to be back home." —New York Times

London, 1893. 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 an unhappy one, and she never suited the role of society wife. Seeking refuge in fresh air and open space, she leaves the metropolis for coastal Essex, accompanied by her inquisitive and obsessive eleven-year-old son, Francis, and the boy's nanny, Martha, her fiercely protective friend.

Once there, they hear rumors that after nearly three hundred years, the mythical Essex Serpent, a fearsome creature that once roamed the marshes, has returned. When a young man is mysteriously killed on New Year's Eve, the community's dread transforms to terror. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist with no patience for religion or superstition, is immediately enthralled, certain that what locals think is a magical sea beast may be a previously undiscovered species.

Eager to investigate, she is introduced to parish vicar William Ransome, who is equally suspicious of the rumors but for different reasons: a man of faith, he is convinced the alarming reports are caused by moral panic, a flight from the correct and righteous path. As Cora and William attempt to discover the truth about the Essex Serpent's existence, these seeming opposites find themselves inexorably drawn together in an intense relationship that will change both of them in ways entirely unexpected. And as they search for answers, Cora's London past follows her to the coast, with striking consequences.

Told with exquisite grace and intelligence, The Essex Serpent masterfully explores questions of science and religion, skepticism and faith, but it is most of all a celebration of love, and the many different—and surprising—guises it can take.

reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Sarah Waters
      • content:

        "A novel to relish: a work of great intelligence and charm, by a hugely talented author." — Sarah Waters

        "Richly enjoyable... Ms. Perry writes beautifully and sometimes agreeably sharply... The Essex Serpent is a wonderfully satisfying novel. Ford Madox Ford thought the glory of the novel was its ability to make the reader think and feel at the same time. This one does just that." — Wall Street Journal

        "Gloriously alive." — NPR

        "The most delightful heroine since Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice...Perry creates that delicate illusion of the best historical fiction: an authentic sense of the past—its manners, ideals and speech—that feels simultaneously distant and relevant to us...By the end, The Essex Serpent identifies a mystery far greater than some creature 'from the illuminated margins of a manuscript': friendship." — Washington Post

        "A novel of almost insolent ambition—lush and fantastical, a wild Eden behind a garden gate...it's part ghost story and part natural history lesson, part romance and part feminist parable. I found it so transporting that 48 hours after completing it, I was still resentful to be back home." — New York Times

        "A fabulous summer read...If Middlemarch heroine Dorothea Brooke had heard of dinosaurs, she might have gone tromping through the salt marshes with Cora Seaborne." — Christian Science Monitor

        "The sumptuous twists and turns of Perry's prose invite close reading, as deep and strange and full of narrative magic as the Blackwater itself. Stuffed with smarts and storytelling sorcery, this is a work of astonishing breadth and brilliance." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

        "The vivid, often frightening imagery... and the lush descriptions... create a magical background for the sensual love story between Sarah and Will. Book-discussion groups will have a field day with the imagery, the well-developed characters, and the concepts of innocence, evil, and guilt." — Booklist (starred review)

        "In Perry's excellent second novel... a fatal illness, a knife-wielding maniac, and a fated union with the Essex Serpent will dictate the ultimate happiness of [the] characters. Like John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman... this is another period literary pastiche with a contemporary overlay." — Publishers Weekly

        "Compulsive...narrative and voice coil together until it is very difficult to stop reading." — The Guardian

        "Irresistible" — People (Book of the Week)

        "Astonishing...Perry's prose is rich, textured, and intricate...a thoughtful and elegant book about the human need for knowledge and love, and about the fears and desires we bury." — Vox

        "Triumphs on every level, whether in its rich, evocative prose or its authentic Victorian detail, its credible, multifaceted characters or its high-stakes drama...Perry likened writing her novel to a 'possession.' Reading it, we find ourselves under a similar mesmerizing spell." — Minneapolis Star Tribune

        "The Essex Serpent is Sarah Perry's first book to come across the pond to us from Great Britain, and it is a corker...Even the most minor characters are filled with a particular life, light and love...one of the best, most memorable novels I have read in long years." — Daily Herald

        "As engrossing as its reputation would suggest...Perry's command of language as a tool to evoke time and place...

      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        April 17, 2017
        In Perry’s (After Me Comes the Flood) excellent second novel, set in the Victorian era, recent widow Cora Seaborne leaves London with her 11-year-old son, Francis, and loyal companion, Martha, and goes to Colchester, where a legendary, fearsome creature called the Essex Serpent has been sighted. Scholarly Cora, who is more interested in the study of nature than in womanly matters of dress, tramps about in a man’s tweed coat, determined to find proof of this creature’s existence. Through friends, she is introduced to William Ransome, the local reverend; his devoted wife, Stella; and their three children. Cora looks for a scientific rationale for the Essex Serpent, while Ransome dismisses it as superstition. This puts them at odds with one another, but, strangely, also acts as a powerful source of attraction between them. When Cora is visited by her late husband’s physician, Luke Garrett, who carries a not-so-secret torch for her, a love triangle of sorts is formed. In the end, a fatal illness, a knife-wielding maniac, and a fated union with the Essex Serpent will dictate the ultimate happiness of these characters. Like John Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman, whose Lyme Regis setting gets a shout-out here, this is another period literary pastiche with a contemporary overlay. Cora makes for a fiercely independent heroine around whom all the other characters orbit.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        Starred review from March 15, 2017
        The unlikely friendship between a canny widow and a scholarly vicar sets the stage for this sweeping 19th-century saga of competing belief systems.Widow Cora Seaborne knows she should mourn the death of her husband; instead, she finally feels free. Eschewing the advice of her friends, Cora retreats from London with her lady's maid, Martha, and strange, prescient son, Francis. The curious party decamps to muddy Essex, where Cora dons an ugly men's coat and goes tramping in the mud, looking for fossils. Soon she becomes captivated by the local rumor of a menacing presence that haunts the Blackwater estuary, a threat that locks children in their houses after dark and puts farmers on watch as the tide creeps in. Cora's fascination with the fabled Essex Serpent leads her to the Rev. William Ransome, desperate to keep his flock from descending into outright hysteria. An unlikely pair, the two develop a fast intellectual friendship, curious to many but accepted by all, including Ransome's ailing wife, Stella. Perry (After Me Comes the Flood, 2015) pulls out all the stops in her richly detailed Victorian yarn, weaving myth and local flavor with 19th-century debates about theology and evolution, medical science and social justice for the poor. Each of Perry's characters receives his or her due, from the smallest Essex urchin to the devastating Stella, who suffers from tuberculosis and obsesses over the color blue throughout her decline. There are Katherine and Charles Ambrose, a good-natured but shallow society couple; the ambitious and radical Dr. Luke Garrett and his wealthier but less-talented friend George Spencer, who longs for Martha; Martha herself, who rattles off Marx with the best of them and longs to win Cora's affection; not to mention a host of sailors, superstitious tenant farmers, and bewitched schoolgirls. The sumptuous twists and turns of Perry's prose invite close reading, as deep and strange and full of narrative magic as the Blackwater itself. Fans of Sarah Waters, A.S. Byatt, and Elizabeth Gilbert's The Signature of All Things should prepare to fall under Perry's spell and into her very capable hands. Stuffed with smarts and storytelling sorcery, this is a work of astonishing breadth and brilliance.

        COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        April 1, 2017

        In good Queen Victoria's heyday (the year is never specified but would seem to be in the early 1890s), rumor has it that an earthquake has opened a fissure in leafy, bucolic, and apparently very muddy coastal Essex, through which a serpent slithers, part local bogey-beastie and part tourist attraction. Perry's (After Me Comes the Flood) large cast of characters centers on Cora Seaborne, recently widowed, who visits the town of Aldwinter, both because of her interest in fossils and to try out her newfound freedom. It turns out that her marriage had not been happy. While in Aldwinter, Cora meets married Rev. William Ransome, and they discuss faith and fossils, among other things. Almost 30 years ago, A.S. Byatt's take on the Victorian era, Possession, caught fire with readers. Lightning just might strike twice with this winner of British retailer Waterstone's 2016 Book of the Year. VERDICT Exercise caution approaching this literary garden pavilion, floored with mud, glorious mud, and canopied with lush and lovely blue English roses. You just may find yourself unable to leave. [See Prepub Alert, 12/19/16; see "Editors' Spring Picks," LJ 2/15/17.]--Bob Lunn, Kansas City, MO

        Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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NOW AN APPLE TV+ SERIES

A Washington Post Notable Work of Fiction * Winner of the British Book Awards Fiction Book of the Year and overall Book of the Year *A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of The Year * Waterstones Book of the Year * Costa Book Award Finalist

"A novel of almost insolent ambition—lush and fantastical, a wild Eden behind a garden gate...it's part ghost story and part natural history lesson, part romance and part feminist parable. I found it so transporting that 48 hours after completing it, I was still resentful to be back home." —New York Times

London, 1893. 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 an unhappy one, and she never suited the role of society wife. Seeking refuge in fresh air and open space, she leaves the metropolis for coastal Essex, accompanied by her inquisitive and...

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