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The Essex Serpent

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  23,736 Ratings  ·  3,402 Reviews
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
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Hardcover, 422 pages
Published June 6th 2017 by Custom House (first published May 27th 2016)
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Popular Answered Questions
Martin Goodness! No plot! Nothing happening? Have we read different books? I've just finished and have found it to be both an extremely satisfying novel of…moreGoodness! No plot! Nothing happening? Have we read different books? I've just finished and have found it to be both an extremely satisfying novel of ideas set in a totally believable historical time frame and an incredibly tender love story. (less)
Meredith Bradbury I will be sorry to finish this book. It is a captivating and evocative look into the late 19th century. If your mother-in-law is a reader, she will…moreI will be sorry to finish this book. It is a captivating and evocative look into the late 19th century. If your mother-in-law is a reader, she will not be able to resist its charms, regardless of whether she is conservative or liberal.(less)

Community Reviews

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Will Byrnes
‘Sometimes I think I sold my soul, so that I could live as I must. Oh, I don’t mean without morals or conscience—I only mean with freedom to think the thoughts that come, to send them where I want them to go, not to let them run along tracks someone else set, leading only this way or that…’ Frowning, she ran her thumb along the serpent’s spine and said, ‘I’ve never said this before, not to anyone, though I’ve meant to: but yes I’ve sold my soul, though I’m afraid it didn’t fetch too high a pric
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Amalia Gavea
‘’Come tomorrow, if you like, to the grave. I said I’d go alone, but perhaps that’s the point; perhaps we are always alone, no matter the company we keep.’’

This novel is as complex, as beautiful and mesmerizing as its cover. It is astonishing, an exciting, majestic literary journey. It deserves all the recognition it gets and then some. It is plain and simple one of the most beautiful, unique novels I’ve ever read. There will be no ‘’but’’ or ‘’or’’ in my review. ‘The Essex Serpent’ is perfect
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Hannah Greendale
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

After the death of her husband, the intelligent young widow, Cora Seaborne, abandons her society life in London and departs for coastal Essex, accompanied by her neurotic eleven-year-old son and his nanny. Cora's plans to recuperate are derailed when she learns of a rumor about a mythical serpent taking the lives of villagers further up the estuary. Feeding her interest in natural history, she journeys to le
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Murray Ewing
Aug 06, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
Late Victorian England. Cora Seaborne, newly widowed by a sadistic but wealthy husband, and now free to follow her interests in palaeontology, finds herself in the Essex village of Aldwinter, where rumours of a sea serpent lurking in the always-(conveniently)-foggy bay have the locals in a superstitious tizz. There, she meets local vicar Will Ransome, and the two form an instant rapport, despite their supposedly opposing views — and despite the fact that the vicar already has a wife and children ...more
Rebecca Foster
(4.5) This exquisite work of historical fiction explores the gaps – narrower than one might think – between science and superstition and between friendship and romantic love. The Essex Serpent was a real-life legend from the latter half of the seventeenth century, but Perry’s second novel has fear of the sea creature re-infecting Aldwinter, her invented Essex village, in the 1890s. Mysterious deaths and disappearances are automatically attributed to the Serpent that dwells in the depths of the B ...more
Robin
We are cleaved together - we are cleaved apart - everything that draws me to you is everything that drives me away.

How I loved holding this book in my hands, with the gorgeous William Morris cover and the soft, uneven deckle-edged pages. While perusing this lovely volume, I revelled in the gothic atmosphere. I looked forward to the intimate letters and notes sprinkled throughout the narrative. I was intrigued by the mystery of the serpent, the palpable fear of those in the damp, mossy, seaside
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Katie
You might say The Essex Serpent is about the strivings and fears of the child within. When we’re children we have no problem whatsoever believing that a huge winged beast might live in the dark waters behind the marshlands if that’s what we’re told and what legend believes. And as children we’re always struggling to forge a bond with some companion we single out as being a kind of annunciation angel. Everyone in this novel possesses a restless heart. Everyone has a deep sea monster lurking benea ...more
mark monday
A snake of doubt winds its way through their lives, forked tongue flicking, a subtle sneaking menace. It slithers through the villagers' minds, bringing their faith low, raising their superstitions high. It slips through chinks in the vicar's armor, built so carefully over a lifetime. It slides into our heroine's life and into that of her friend, the doctor, whispering into their minds when they are at their weakest. Its brother serpent, a snake of indifference, has already claimed its victims: ...more
Trudie
Nov 19, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016, historical
Well, this will certainly teach me about that old adage re books and covers. I really love a Victorian floral in the William Morris mode and buttercup yellow endpapers, charming !

In my mind this was going to be a gothic tale of serpents and maybe some Victorian sexual repression - something along those lines.
Certainly, serpents were mentioned, people seemed flustered about it but the entire thing lacked any kind of narrative tension or gothic edge, unless you count the odd fog.

Then there was
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Peter Boyle
"STRANGE NEWS, they'd say, of a monstrous serpent with eyes like a sheep, come out of the Essex waters and up to the birch woods and commons..."

I know I'm going to love a book when I find myself growing very fond of the characters early on. A mere fifty pages into this engrossing story, I was absolutely charmed by the most captivating of casts and wanted to know everything about them. And on the final page, I felt utterly bereft as I bid them farewell.

Cora Seaborne is the beating heart of this n
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Dianne
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2017
A completely unexpected treasure! This has everything I look for in a book - lovely writing that you can get lost in, rich dialogue, memorable and lively characters, an imaginative and unusual plot and tons of atmosphere. Goodness! Read this!!
Sam
Dec 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-reads
The Essex Serpent is a beautifully written work of historical fiction, absolutely immersing you in 1890s Victorian England, and has a fantastic cast of characters whose attitudes, ideas, and actions are the best parts of the novel. Though I found the plot itself could have been a bit tighter and my attention would occasionally wane during some of the subplot portions, and it may not have engaged me as much emotionally as it did in spades intellectually, this is overall an absorbing, interesting ...more
Tanja Berg
Oct 15, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was wavering between a one and a two star rating, but my disappointment landed on a one. I hoped, and was led to expect, that this would be a tale of Victorian cryptozoology. That there would be an independent and interesting woman, recently widowed Cora, hunting for a creature while being hampered by the local pastor. Turns out the serpent barely features.

I didn't feel I got to know Cora, and I didn't particularly like any of the cast. This was more of a love triangle than anything else, alt
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Roger Brunyate


Something Severed, and Something Joined
Then it carried me in spate to the Essex shore, to all the marsh and shingle, and I tasted on my lips the salt air which is also like the flesh of oysters, and I felt my heart cleaving, as I felt it there in the dark wood on the green stair and as I feel it now: something severed, and something joined.
This is from a letter written near the end of this miracle of a novel by its heroine, a young widow named Cora Seaborne. It is an extension of her earlier r
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Penny
Jun 02, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-n-z
3.5
I liked this novel quite a lot, but I didn't love it and I somehow felt a bit disappointed about that. The glowing reviews had made me expect more.
It started off really strongly, but by the time I was past the half way mark I started to feel restless and to plan what I'd read next. Not a good sign!
I liked the depiction of the Blackwater Estuary, an area I know well from living near Maldon for several years. It's a good choice of setting as even now it can be bleak and eerie on a winter's day
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Geo Marcovici
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Translation widget on the blog!!!
O poveste interesantă despre libertatea unei femei scăpate din jugul unui soț abuziv. Despre zborul acesteia spre lumea larga. Un roman despre autocunoaștere, despre viața de zi cu zi și despre oameni și locuri ce influențează destine!
Recenzia mea completă o găsiți aici:
https://www.delicateseliterare.ro/sar...
Diane Barnes
Nov 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
This novel is classified in my mind as "A damn good read". Set in Victorian England in the 1890's, it juxtaposes religion, superstition, and science in equal measure, and makes you believe in all of them at the same time. A little bit of Dickens mixed with Wilkie Collins mixed with Sarah Waters, it combines beautiful writing with great characters, a setting both lovely and sinister, and ideas and emotions that are foreign and familiar at the same time. I recommend The Essex Serpent for anyone wh ...more
Paula Kalin
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historical fiction fans
Recommended to Paula by: Goodreads Ireland
What a surprisingly charming book!

Nominated for both The Women’s Prize and The Costa Book Award, The Essex Serpent is a beautifully written book. Set in 1893 Essex, England, we meet Cora Seaborne, recently and happily widowed and William Ransome, the town vicor, who is dealing with rumors and superstition of a returning mythical Essex Serpent.

Cora, an amateur naturalist, develops such an interesting friendship with William Ransome. At odds with each other and always with opposing views (science
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Margitte
Random notes while reading:

- I just love the ambiance of this book!

- Mmmm... do we have a curmudgeon on our hands? Reverend William Ransome, Rector of Aldwinter Parish forbids his children entry to his study; escapes by window when they're at the door; threatens them with bread and water when they're disobedient; detest the pagan celebration of an old shipwreck by the children of the town; "Aside from the church’s curiosities – which were in truth a minor embarrassment to each successive incumb
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Hugh
Jun 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, read-2017
I was a little apprehensive about reading this because the plaudits it gained when published last year and its subsequent popularity made me suspect that it would disappoint. Such thoughts were groundless - within a few pages I was engrossed in this page-turner set in the 1890s. I should have known that Perry was a promising writer since I read her debut novel After Me Comes The Flood, which was memorably atmospheric if rather more elliptical.

The central characters of this book are Cora Seaborne
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Ron Charles
Standing at the shoreline on a calm, moonless night, you can hear a low-pitched roar. Some say it’s just the waves; others claim it’s a winged monster swimming through the watery depths. But it’s actually the sound of thousands of fans cheering for “The Essex Serpent,” an irresistible new novel by Sarah Perry.

Last month, “The Essex Serpent” won the British Book Award, and it’s already sold more than 250,000 copies, which should convince any skeptic that this slippery beast is real.

There have bee
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Helene Jeppesen
Jul 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5/5 stars.
What a beautiful novel! On the outside as well as on the inside.
For some strange reason, I though that this was going to be a really dense book to get through. I imagined that it would be written in an intricate language and that the magical realism would be hard to follow. However, I'm now happy to say that that was not at all the case. In fact, the language was beautiful, and the dialogue was easy to follow. I'm not entirely sure you would apply the term 'magical realism' to this
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Beverly
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Phrynne
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4000-books
A beautiful cover on a beautiful book. The author writes so well it would be a pleasure to read even if there were no story and the characters were boring, which is far from the case.

The main character, Cora, is recently widowed and free at last from a controlling man. Our sympathies are with her at first but in her first flush of freedom she becomes very careless with other people's emotions and causes many problems along the way. Another very interesting character is Luke Garret, a promising s
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Blair
What to say about The Essex Serpent? It seems much easier to think about, to mentally inhabit this novel than to write about it. It's a rich and indulgent piece of historical fiction that draws many-layered contrasts between science and faith, and depicts a love story that is centred on, and continually circles back to, a friendship. At its heart is Cora Seaborne, a lovingly crafted character who, as the overquoted line goes, contains multitudes; she is surrounded by an equally charming supporti ...more
Joanne Harris
An exceptional piece of writing, deftly linking current concerns with those of its chosen time frame via one of the most engaging female protagonists since Wilkie Collins' WOMAN IN WHITE. I loved it..
Carol  ꧁꧂
2.5★

Well... I loved the cover.In fact one of the most beautiful covers I've ever seen. The contents...not so much.




Set in Victorian England, Ms Perry's writing is so beautiful, so elegant but she couldn't make me care about her heroine, Cora, an abused wife freed by becoming a widow. Cora and her (probably on the spectrum) son Francis move to a village in Essex where she becomes fascinated by the legendary Essex Serpent.

Every time I wanted to give up on this book, the writing would draw m
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Jill
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Oh my. It has been a while since I’ve devoured a novel this magnificent. In Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry hasn’t just crafted a novel. She’s created a world.

It’s a world ruled by reason and order, a touch of faith, and fantastical beings that have no explanation. Set in Essex – not coincidentally, a location where a mythical winged serpent scared locals out of their wits in 1669 and where infamous witch trials were held – the novel jumps forward to the end of the nineteenth century. It is there tha
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Issicratea
Sep 25, 2017 rated it liked it
I can see why The Essex Serpent would make publishers’ eyes light up. It’s a rich old fruity Dickensian plum pudding of a novel, full of generous dollops of Victorian-novel-of-ideas ingredients (Darwinism and the rise of science vs faith; early Marxism; early feminism), mixed together—if I haven’t overstretched the culinary metaphor already—in a highly digestible form.

If this sounds faintly sardonic, it may be the result of disappointment. At the outset, I thought Sarah Perry’s bestselling novel
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Julie Christine
Cora, you cannot always keep yourself away from the things that hurt you. We all wish that we could, but we cannot: to live at all is to be bruised.

Something sinister stirs in the marshes along the Essex coast. Hysteria ripples through the village of Aldwinter in dread of it. It's a serpent-monster, they say - a winged leviathan that once roamed this county just north of London more than three hundred years ago. And it's come back to steal the breath of children and the reason of adults.

Sarah
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Sarah Perry was born in Essex in 1979, and was raised as a Strict Baptist. Having studied English at Anglia Ruskin University she worked as a civil servant before studying for an MA in Creative Writing and a PhD in Creative Writing and the Gothic at Royal Holloway, University of London. In 2004 she won the Spectator's Shiva Naipaul Award for travel writing.

In January 2013 she was Writer-in-Residen
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More about Sarah Perry

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“You told me once you forget you are a woman, and I
understand it now – you think to be a woman is to be weak – you
think ours is a sisterhood of suffering! Perhaps so, but doesn’t it take
greater strength to walk a mile in pain than seven miles in none?
You are a woman, and must begin to live like one. By which I
mean: have courage.”
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“It was necessary to be afraid in order to have courage.” 27 likes
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