The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

The Essex Serpent

It took me a while to get into this book – a good 100 pages or so – but once I did it coiled around me like the serpent itself. Cora, newly widowed at the end of the 19th century, escapes life as a society wife in London and moves to Essex, with her son and companion Martha. She finds herself intrigued by rumours of the reappearance of the legendary Essex serpent – which is terrorising the village of Aldwinter. Cora goes in search of it – though believing she may find a new species not a mythical beast. There she meets the local vicar, William Ransome, who’s happily married to his beautiful childhood sweetheart. Cora and Will agree on nothing – her world is science, his is religion – yet an intense friendship ensues and they are drawn together. A study of friendship and love, against a backdrop of superstition and fear, the Essex Serpent is beautifully written with vividly drawn characters. I particularly loved the feisty Cora who dresses one minute in her London finery, the next in men’s clothes as she strides out across the marshes in search of fossils, ignoring social etiquette and expectations. It’s a book whose characters and atmospheric landscapes stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it.

7 thoughts on “The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

  1. Extraordinary book. I loved this so much. Poetic and insightful, I was hooked from the very first few words and wanted to start it over again as soon as I’d finished. It’s a very evocative portrait of a landscape too; nature, science and religion colliding and collaborating. Read this book!

  2. This was given to me as a gift at Christmas. It’s taken a while to get in to, if I’m honest. But it is a beautiful story that I have thoroughly enjoyed; I admired Cora’s spirit, and related to her, as a mum. (My son has Asperger’s) Definitely worth a read.

    1. Likewise – took me a while to get into as well. But wonderful once I did. Funnily enough as I type they’re reading the latest instalment of it on Radio 4’s book at bedtime!

  3. Tremendous story. Never been to this area but after reading the book I feel as if know it well. A descriptive triumph. Can’t help but smile with affection over Frankies antics. I’m also doing the re- read it straight away thing. Brilliant, we both loved it, many thanks Sophie.

  4. I agree totally with your review of this book Sophie – it took me a while to get into and thankfully I rarely give up on books, because so often they are well worth the initial struggle. I loved its atmosphere and the drawing of the individual characters – a triumph.

  5. I found it very evocative from the start. I thought that the characters were all well drawn and very believable. The multiple strands made it a marvellous read. Loved the descriptions of the Essex countryside and the contrast between different characters.

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