The Essex Serpent : The number one bestseller and British Book Awards Book of the Year
Overall Book of the Year and Fiction Book of the Year at the British Book Awards 2017 (Nibbies)
Longlisted for the 2017 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction
The Waterstones Book of the Year 2016
Shortlisted for the 2016 Costa Novel Award
London, 1893. When Cora Seaborne's controlling husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness. Along with her son Francis - a curious, obsessive boy - she leaves town for Essex, in the hope that fresh air and open space will provide refuge.
On arrival, rumours reach them that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming lives, has returned to the coastal parish of Aldwinter. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist with no patience for superstition, is enthralled, convinced that what the local people think is a magical beast may be a yet-undiscovered species. As she sets out on its trail, she is introduced to William Ransome, Aldwinter's vicar, who is also deeply suspicious of the rumours, but thinks they are a distraction from true faith.
As he tries to calm his parishioners, Will and Cora strike up an intense relationship, and although they agree on absolutely nothing, they find themselves at once drawn together and torn apart, affecting each other in ways that surprise them both.
The Essex Serpent is a celebration of love, and the many different shapes it can take.
- Paperback | 448 pages
- 130 x 200 x 25mm | 369g
- 01 May 2017
- Profile Books Ltd
- Serpent's Tail
- London, United Kingdom
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About Sarah Perry
The Essex Serpent is shot through with such a vivid, lively sense of the period that it reads like Charles Dickens at his most accessible and fans of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell will also find much to love in this engaging, entertaining Gothic novel. -- Charlotte Heathcote * Daily Express * A novel of ideas, and flexes its muscles in addressing multiple concerns of the period ... The novel probes at both private emotion and public concerns, and is engrossing and immersive. The grime of London is only surpassed by the murk of Aldwinter. Cora makes for an indelible heroine: uncompromising, funny and smart, and not unlike Alma Whittaker in Elizabeth Gilbert's The Signature of All Things. There will also be whispers of Dickens or a gamut of 19th century novels of similar size and scale, but Perry's voice and story are her own. Her language is exquisite, her characterisation finely tuned. Based on The Essex Serpent and its predecessor, it's clear that Perry is a gifted writer of immense ability. -- Sinead Gleeson * Irish Times * A Victorian-era gothic with a Dickensian focus on societal ills, Perry's second novel surprises in its wonderful freshness. There's a sense of Llareggub about close-knit Aldwinter, its flint church, historic oak and ribby shipwreck instantly present, while the tapestry of voices that results from the use of letters amplifies the Under Milk Wood echo. Perry's singular characters are drawn with a fondness that is both palpable and contagious, and the beautifully observed changing seasons permitted space to breathe, all making for pure pleasure. -- Stephanie Cross * Observer * An eerie tale of science and superstition ... gothically good. -- Eithne Farry * Sunday Express * It's 1893, and Cora Seabourne is a young widow whose husband's death has released her from a miserable marriage. Finally free to follow her own interest in natural history, Cora heads to Essex, hoping the recent reports of a mysterious ancient serpent may possibly turn out to be proof of a "living fossil . . . a species outwitting extinction". There she meets the local vicar, Will Ransome, and despite his scepticism about science and her lack of faith in religion, the two forge an unlikely bond. A bewitching and luminous book about science, faith and different kinds of love. -- Anna Carey * Irish Times * Dazzling * Woman and Home * The Essex Serpent is rare in being a novel that is both highly diverting and intellectually rewarding, in taking its thematic interests seriously while playing delightedly with romance and the Gothic. -- Sarah Moss * The Lancet * Sarah Perry...beautifully and deeply...elucidates friendships of all kinds in her books...I must recommend the delicate beauty and sinuous power. -- Lucy Mangan * Stylist * It's a brilliantly written story of one woman's life and relationships in late Victorian England and my favourite historical novel since Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger. -- John Meagher * Irish Independent * A graceful and intelligent book. -- Maria Croce * Daily Record * The Essex Serpent is probably the best novel I have read this year. It is the right kind of literary fiction: full of ideas, challenge, and intrigue, but with a compelling narrative that tows you through the pages like a freight train...Perry has created an ensemble of characters so richly drawn that each could warrant a novel in his or her own right...invigorating, fascinating, and hugely enjoyable. -- Malcolm Doney * Church Times * My stand-out novel of the year is The Essex Serpent...It's about love, faith and myth. I loved it. -- Jenni Murray * Radio Times * The eponymous serpent makes its presence felt throughout, but this novel is about much, much more than a winged demon terrorising the Essex countryside, and is all the richer for it. -- Kate Foley * Living North * One of the most-loved books of the last two years...Perry's descriptions of Essex bring to life the beauty of one of our more under-appreciated counties. * Emerald Street * The Essex Serpent has been hailed as a modern classic, and for good reason. It's an esoteric, whimsical book that joins the ranks of generations of Victorian and Gothic novels from Doyle to Shelley, all the while defying the very traditions these books have set down... The perfect book to read as you sit in an overgrown garden, or while tramping through the heath. * The Edinburgh Reporter * A Notable Book of 2017 * New York Times *