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The Essex Serpent

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  48,147 ratings  ·  6,185 reviews
Sarah Perry's award-winning novel, set at the end of the nineteenth century and inspired by true events.

Moving between Essex and London, myth and modernity, Cora Seaborne's spirited search for the Essex Serpent encourages all around her to test their allegiance to faith or reason in an age of rapid scientific advancement. At the same time, the novel explores the boundaries
Hardcover, 422 pages
Published June 6th 2017 by Custom House (first published May 27th 2016)
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Samantha I made it through almost 200 pages before giving up. Comes across as both dull and trying too hard not to be. Obviously the wife is going to die at so…moreI made it through almost 200 pages before giving up. Comes across as both dull and trying too hard not to be. Obviously the wife is going to die at some point (really, she's coughing again? oh she's warm? could she be....dying??) but get on with it already! (less)
Andrew Cox How weird to read these comments. Whether I am too used to sexual references I don't know but I would not have any qualms about recommending this book…moreHow weird to read these comments. Whether I am too used to sexual references I don't know but I would not have any qualms about recommending this book to anyone. If you find gross sexual scenes & a bit of sexual sadism in it I think you must be reading a different book. I would imagine a very devout Christian might not like some of the arguments around science & religion but these are just philosophical debates & reflects the arguments of the time & certainly does not belittle religious orthodoxy. If you feel remotely offended by anything in this book I recommend you don't open a book again. Amazing,(less)

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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 pr
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
Amalia Gkavea
‘’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 perfe
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
Nov 19, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 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
(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
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, seasi
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
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
Dec 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The pendulum swings from one year to the next, and there’s darkness on the face of the deep."

The year is 1893 and something evil is lurking in the Blackwater Estuary in Essex, England. Nearly two hundred years prior, a hideous, winged serpent was said to rise from the waters and walk the woods and the commons, terrorizing the villagers. As quickly as it had appeared, it once again disappeared and was no longer to be seen… until now. The inhabitants of Aldwinter and the surrounding villages are
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
Reading this was like looking at the back of a tapestry: I can see the skill with which the rich materials are worked, feel the magic instilled, and know there is something fascinating on the other side - but it’s less than the sum of its parts. There’s a potentially excellent book here, struggling to untangle and refine itself, but unfortunately that’s not what I read.

Image: The back of a tapestry at Knole (Source.)

Plot and Characters - no spoilers

The story covers 12 months of 1893. Cora Seabo
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
Feb 21, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: not-for-me, dubray
If a book fits wear it with pride, if not discard in the knowledge you tried

It is so difficult to review a book that so many of my good read friends have loved and I didn't. I really disliked The Essex Serpent to the point of frustration that 200 pages in I had to give up and trust me I hate giving up on books.

I struggled from the very first chapter with this book, it’s setting, timeframe and characters, and even the typeface of the paperback copy I purchased.
Set in London in 1893, Cora S
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
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!!
Nov 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: xx2018-completed
The prologue to this book had the strong rhythms of poetry and music. It was a great opening, although I did find myself caught up in the beats and rhymes and almost-rhymes so I had to go back and read it again for its sense. It was hard to un-hear and un-feel the poetry and galloping rhythm, though.

I have read a few books where repetition has enhanced the book in subtle and sometimes courageous ways. However, two that distracted me in this novel felt more like mistakes – although I could be wro
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
Jun 02, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-n-z
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
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
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-star-books
As book titles go, The Essex Serpent repulses me. Anything that has scales on its body, slithers and crawls on its belly, scares the daylights out of me. Yet, for one week, I camped by the Blackwater estuary in fictional Aldwinter, wrapped up in the foggy mystery of a serpentine creature that is alleged to be terrorizing the inhabitants of an Essex village. The monstrous serpent in question has dragon wings and eyes like a sheep – a formidable beast. It lures men and animals to their death; it t ...more
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
Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂

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 th
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
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
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
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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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-Reside

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