The Essex Serpent

The Essex Serpent

A Novel

Book - 2016
Average Rating:
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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.
Publisher: New York, NY : Custom House, [2016]
Edition: Frist U.S. edition.
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780062666376
0062666371
Branch Call Number: FIC PERRY
Characteristics: 416 pages ; 23 cm

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SPL_Brittany Oct 09, 2017

For a full review see the Summary section. Review first published in the Stratford Gazette October 2017.

1
1_Great_Book
Sep 28, 2017

Plodding with too many pages. A good subject that could have been honed into a better work.

b
brangwinn
Sep 19, 2017

Hum, this wasn’t my favorite book, and I’m not sure why. It certainly tilted my vision of Victorian England. An independent wealthy widow with a Marxist loving assistant and a son who might be diagnosed as highly functioning autistic today. Cora leaves London for Essex because of her love of fossils. She finds a community worried about a sea monster, and she finds love in a strange place, a parsonage with a deep-thinking minister and his wife dying of tuberculosis. Add a wealthy London doctor who wants to put his fortune to good use, and a forward-thinking surgeon who is in love with the widow, Cora. All the elements are there for a good book, and it is excellent writing, descriptive and detailed but it didn’t suck me into the pages the way I expected it to do.

taraverte Aug 30, 2017

A memorable book with interesting characters and wonderful atmosphere. I can see this book as a movie and hope it's on the cards.

t
traceyrb
Aug 29, 2017

I expected to like this book but could hardly finish it. It started out with promise and the writing was good, but the story simply didn't go anywhere and where it did go was not believable or interesting

e
EmilyEm
Aug 16, 2017

Recent widow and amateur naturalist Cora takes her companion Martha and son Frankie to the Essex coast. Here they are introduced to the story of the Essex Serpent and the family of the local vicar and residents in a coastal village. And, we stay in touch, as Cora does, with friends in London. Amazing stories every one. Narrative just simmers!

So many themes, so many characters, but all handled brilliantly by this young author. This book takes historical fiction to a whole new level. Quite an accomplishment. I’m sure this will be among my Best Books of 2017. Read more about fossil hunter Mary Anning and the hunt for prehistoric creatures in Tracy Chevalier’s wonderful book ‘Remarkable Creatures.’

HMWLibrary2017 Aug 11, 2017

Overly contrived and silly. I only gave it two stars because the descriptions of nature are beautiful - otherwise it would've gotten only one from me.

l
laphampeak
Aug 06, 2017

This book was well written and had greater potential than was reached. The setting, the characters, the relationships all had a place for the most part. A few situations seemed to be included with no meaning - the Socialists of the time, for example. It seemed to me that the anticipation in the development of relationships - mother to son, neighbor to neighbor, women to man - all came to a disappointment. I waited for some redeeming value. This novel had keen description and detail but even lacked intrigue in the main serpent theme. Coulda shoulda woulda.

l
lxydis
Aug 03, 2017

Overhyped, overrated, and derivative of many (superior) novels by (say) AS Byatt or Wilkie Collins or iris murdoch. Also the characters were unsympathetic and the book was tedious beyond belief

s
susanchyn
Jul 31, 2017

Beautiful writing, if dense. Did not love this book, but I respect it.

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SPL_Brittany Oct 09, 2017

Set in the late Victorian era, recent widow Cora Seaborne leaves London with her son Francis, and loyal companion Martha and journeys to Aldwinter, a small village in Essex, where a legendary fearsome creature called the Essex Serpent has been sighted. Cora, who is more interested in the study of nature as an amateur naturalist, would rather be tramping about the countryside free from the strictures of society and the trappings of her gender, is determined to find proof of this creature. Through mutual acquaintances, she is introduced to the Ransome family - William the local reverend, his devoted yet sickly wife Stella and their three children. While Cora looks for scientific reasoning for the serpent, William dismisses it as superstition and a deviation from true faith. Cora and Will’s friendship is both forged and exasperated by their differing opinions as they can agree on absolutely nothing, yet both are drawn toward the other. Their friendship is threatened with the arrival of Cora’s friend Luke Garrett a skilled surgeon who carries a not-so-secret torch for Cora. In the end, a fatal illness, a knife-wielding maniac, and a fated union with the Essex Serpent will dictate the happiness of these characters.

A perfect time of the year to sit back and enjoy transporting to a time in England where the belief in mythical creatures and modern science coexisted side by side. Where Londoners traveled by tube and horse drawn carriages, used both electricity and candlelight, and experimented with modern medicine. Perry writes a novel filled with beautiful prose that is atmospheric and a touch gothic, filled with wonderfully drawn characters who offer social commentary on the debate between science and religion, social issues in London, as well as examining the varied nature of love through each of the characters who orbit around Cora. Awarded British Book of the Year and gathering increasing attention, a wonderful read that will delight readers of literary and historical fiction as well as providing plenty of discussion for book clubs.

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