Goodreads Summary– 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.
- Writing– The Essex Serpent is beautifully written. It is lyrical, and slow-paced so I know that it is not for everyone but it is something that I personally enjoy.
- Setting– The majority of the novel is set in the Essex countryside, which is a place that I have never read about before. Sarah Perry describes this area so vividly that I had no problems picturing where the story was taking place.
- Themes– I loved the themes that Sarah Perry explores in this book. She shines a light on that fact that there is a very thin line between friendship love and romantic love.
- Characters– All the characters in this book are so unique and have a lot much depth. None of them are perfect and they are all so realistic. It allowed me to really connect with everyone in the novel, even the side characters.
- Plot– I enjoyed the plot but I was expecting just a little bit more of it. I was hoping for more tension, drama, and action but the book just never really went there.
“I believe for most of us – for me, certainly – what’s below the skin is more worth looking at than what’s outside it. Turn me inside out and I’d be quite a handsome man!”
“Time was being served behind the walls of Newgate jail, and wasted by philosophers in cafes on the Strand; it was lost by those who wished the past were present, and loathed by those who wished the present past.”
“You are a woman, and must begin to live like one. By which I mean: have courage.”
While I adored The Essex Serpent, I know that it will not be for everyone! If you like slow-paced historical fiction novels then I do think you will love it. It is an extraordinary story that I am so glad that I picked up solely because of the gorgeous cover.