The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
Some books should be bought and some should be borrowed. I made the mistake of borrowing this one and my local Library had to fight hard to get it back. It took two renewals and one late fee for me to finish it off but it was worth every bit of the hassle.
The Essex Serpent was released nine months ago, by English author, Sarah Perry who also wrote After Me Comes the Flood in 2014. Although this second book didn’t hit my radar on release, I’ve since researched the reviews and I’m not the only one raving.
Set in 1890 between rural Essex (way before Jersey Shore) and London, The Essex Serpent is a twisted and textured tale almost like a 21st century Thomas Hardy. Read it if you love themes like religion versus superstition, faith versus science and socialist politics….or if you just love grey skies over wild fields in country England like I do.
The story centres around wealthy widow Cora Seabourne who escapes to Essex after the death of her husband. An amateur naturalist, Cora is opinionated, unpredictable and not at all like the quiet and dutiful widow society expects her to be. She develops a friendship with the local vicar (who is dealing with a superstitious crisis involving a Loch Ness monster type creature threatening the village) and stirs up the congregation with her Darwinist views on science and evolution.
There is so much to love about Cora Seabourne and her connection with the vicar. These two strong characters could not be more different but challenge each other (and hence the reader) in the most wonderful ways.
This is a long and twisty read with contemporary, big city themes in a Victorian era, rural setting. It might take you a few chapters to settle in but before long, you will be smelling the wet wool and dried mud on the pages like I was (actually maybe that was just my library copy).
And that’s my 2 cents worth.