Julie Christine's Reviews > The Essex Serpent

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
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it was amazing
bookshelves: best-of-2017, british-isles-theme-setting, historical-fiction, read-2017

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 Perry's lush, complex historical novel, The Essex Serpent, is a marvel of storytelling, research, and insight into the nature of love. Set during the peak of Victorian England, the novel celebrates an era that has long been characterized as stifled by convention and rigid biblical conservatism. Perry shows instead a time of great scientific curiosity, an embrace of research and experiential learning, and an emboldened sense of social justice. The author offers us strong women who loosen their corsets to better tramp through fields and marshes, exploring a life of the mind and burgeoning modernity. She deftly combines a Gothic style of prose with clear-headed emotional arcs for the broad and fascinating cast of characters.

The story's heart and soul belong to Cora Seaborne, a young widow who wasn't sorry to see her abusive husband pass. She escapes the confines of mourning in London for the freedom of the country, accompanied by her companion, the stalwart Martha, and her autistic son, Francis. Cora is an amateur naturalist and without knowing it, a feminist—a woman wholly unafraid to live her own truth. Or at the very least, to work to explore and define what that truth may be and what it holds for her future.

This is also a novel of tangled, rich love, both mannered and wild. Multiple hearts beat with loves unrequited and an aching pervades the pages, expressed in letters, in long glances, in touches to cinched waistlines and damp napes of the neck. Along with the palpable sense of dread that follows rumors of a winged beast is a sense of desperation and longing that may spin out of control at any moment: desire without fulfillment can be as dangerous as a legendary ichthyosaur.

This is as lovely a novel as I have read in a long time, reminiscent of A.S. Byatt and Sarah Waters. Sarah Perry is a breathtaking writer. Settle in and be prepared to be swept away on a wave of exquisite prose and storytelling. Highly recommended.
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Reading Progress

June 16, 2017 – Shelved
June 16, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
August 21, 2017 – Started Reading
August 21, 2017 –
page 101
23.93% "Much later each claimed to have seen a curious thickening and rising of the water in a particular place, just where the salt marsh ended and the riverbed shelved steeply down."
August 27, 2017 –
page 165
39.1% ""You are a solipsist, Mrs. Seaborne—can you really not imagine that I might take a path which differs from yours and be happy walking there?""
August 31, 2017 – Shelved as: best-of-2017
August 31, 2017 – Shelved as: british-isles-theme-setting
August 31, 2017 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
August 31, 2017 – Shelved as: read-2017
August 31, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-12 of 12 (12 new)

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message 1: by Lucinda (new) - added it

Lucinda This sounds like an interesting book. I'm going to put it on my TBR list.


message 2: by Suzanne (new) - added it

Suzanne Nice review, Julie! This definitely piqued my interest!


Julie Christine Lucinda wrote: "This sounds like an interesting book. I'm going to put it on my TBR list."
It's fascinating, Lucinda! I hope you enjoy. A great winter read :)


Julie Christine Suzanne wrote: "Nice review, Julie! This definitely piqued my interest!"

YAY! I loved this. It took me awhile to read because of life getting in the way, but really, I didn't want to put it down.


message 5: by Dianne (new) - added it

Dianne Great review, Julie, I am reading it now and am enjoying it.


message 6: by Karen (new) - added it

Karen Awesome review Julie! On my list!


Julie Christine Dianne wrote: "Great review, Julie, I am reading it now and am enjoying it." Isn't it lovely? I didn't do it justice, for sure.


Julie Christine Karen wrote: "Awesome review Julie! On my list!"
Thank you, Karen!!


Jayme(the ghost reader) I am currently reading this


message 10: by Connie (new) - added it

Connie Lovely review, Julie. I'll have to find the time to read this--everyone loves it.


Julie Christine Connie wrote: "Lovely review, Julie. I'll have to find the time to read this--everyone loves it."

It's wonderful, Connie!


Margitte Great review, Julie. I enjoyed this book tremendously.


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