- Hardcover: 432 pages
- Publisher: Custom House; 1st US edition (June 6, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062666371
- ISBN-13: 978-0062666376
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.4 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 347 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #187,131 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Essex Serpent: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 6, 2017
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“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)
“An irresistible new novel…the most delightful heroine since Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice…By the end, The Essex Serpent identifies a mystery far greater than some creature ‘from the illuminated margins of a manuscript’: friendship.” (Washington Post)
“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)
“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))
From the Back Cover
Proclaimed as “one of the most memorable historical novels of the past decade” by the Sunday Times, the rapturous #1 bestseller and Waterstones Book of the Year in the UK arrives in America
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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Another dimension involves the differing perspectives of well-off, educated Londoners v. the classic rural villagers whose way of life has changed little over centuries. The central character, Cora, while refined is also interested in Darwin, evolutionary theory, and hunting fossils. Having just read and reviewed "Darwin's Women" I was not surprised as to this aspect since I had learned that a great many women had helped Darwin by doing the legwork necessary to collect the specimens and fossils upon which his work was in part based. Placed in the environment of Aldwinter village, Cora encounters the local, classic British parson with his flock--much better educated than was typical but yet devoted to religious concepts. The two go at it on several themes which illustrates this transition that occurred in England in the late 19th century., as evolution ran up against established religious and social norms. Cora believes the serpent may simply be a "living fossil"; the parson believes it just hysteria which should be dismissed, even though his flock disagrees.
Another interesting dimension involves several characters who are involved in improving impoverished living conditions in London, but with little success. Also present is a most interesting surgeon who has inventive ideas about heart surgery which the local medical authorities are most reluctant for him to undertake. I was surprised a bit at this since much medical progress in reality had been made during this period, the Wellcome Hospital being just one example. The success of his techniques only brings him tragedy.
The title suggests another major theme--sort of a scary monster story or is it? The author resolves the mystery not once but twice, and does so in a most inventive way. In the end, all these issues seem to settle down, though Cora for all her perception and intellectual resources remains a widow, though a fulfilled one. The author's style is most seductive and the novel really draws the reader in and demands continued turning of its 418 pages. I read that the author had become seriously ill recently and may not write any more novels. This is a tragedy for her and a great loss for us if no further works emerge from her. So read this unique and innovative novel and enjoy her while you can.