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The Essex Serpent: A Novel Paperback – 24 April 2018

3.9 out of 5 stars 2,012 ratings

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"A Victorian-era gothic with a Dickensian focus on societal ills, Perry's second novel surprises in its wonderful freshness . . . [her] singular characters are drawn with a fondness that is both palpable and contagious, all making for pure pleasure." --The Observer

"A suspenseful love story... The Essex Serpent recalls variously the earthiness of Emily Brontë, the arch, high-tensile tone of Conan Doyle, the evocation of time and place achieved by Hilary Mantel and Sarah Waters and the antiquarian edgelands horror of M. R. James."--New Statesman

"Irresistible... you can feel the influences of Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens and Hilary Mantel channeled by Perry in some sort of Victorian séance. This is the best new novel I've read in years."--Daily Telegraph

"The Essex Serpent is Sarah Perry's first book to come across the pond to us from Great Britain, and it is a corker...Even the most minor characters are filled with a particular life, light and of the best, most memorable novels I have read in long years."--Daily Herald

"[T]he most deeply satisfying fiction you will read this year."--Waterstones Book of the Year

"A big, warm, generous novel that wears its considerable wisdom lightly, The Essex Serpent is an absolute pleasure from start to finish--I truly didn't want it to end."--Melissa Harrison, author of At Hawthorn Time

"A blissful novel of unapologetic appetites, where desire and faith mingle on the marshes, but friendship is the miracle. Sarah Perry has the rare gift of committing the uncommittable to prose -- that is to say: here is a writer who understands life."--Jessie Burton, author of The Miniaturist

"A fabulous summer read...If Middlemarch heroine Dorothea Brooke had heard of dinosaurs, she might have gone tromping through the salt marshes with Cora Seaborne."--Christian Science Monitor

"A novel of almost insolent ambition--lush and fantastical, a wild Eden behind a garden's part ghost story and part natural history lesson, part romance and part feminist parable. I found it so transporting that 48 hours after completing it, I was still resentful to be back home."--New York Times

"A work of great intelligence and charm, by a hugely talented author."--Sarah Waters, author of Fingersmith

"An exquisitely absorbing, old-fashioned page-turner...The Essex Serpent is shot through with such a vivid, lively sense of the period that it reads like Charles Dickens at his most accessible and fans of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell will also find much to love."--Daily Express

"An irresistible new novel...the most delightful heroine since Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice...By the end, The Essex Serpent identifies a mystery far greater than some creature 'from the illuminated margins of a manuscript' friendship."--Washington Post

"As engrossing as its reputation would suggest...Perry's command of language as a tool to evoke time and place proves remarkable."--Paste Magazine

"Astonishing...Perry's prose is rich, textured, and intricate...a thoughtful and elegant book about the human need for knowledge and love, and about the fears and desires we bury."--Vox

"At once numinous, intimate and wise, The Essex Serpent is a marvellous novel about the workings of life, love and belief, about science and religion, secrets, mysteries, and the complicated and unexpected shifts of the human heart...It is so good its pages seem lit from within."--Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk

"Compulsive...narrative and voice coil together until it is very difficult to stop reading."--The Guardian

"Confident, intelligent and original storytelling -- I was seduced by the many charms of The Essex Serpent."--Laline Paull, author of The Bees

"Dickensian in scope, depth, and exquisite use of language ... At once love story and mystery, deeply penetrating layered characters with wit and grace, The Essex Serpent reveals the mundane beast that spawned wild rumors, and the stranger, less easily unmasked beasts within us."--Historical Novels Review

"Everything they're saying is true: sumptuous, beautiful, powerful, engrossing, brilliant."--Nina Stibbe

"For originality, richness of prose and depth of characterization is unlikely to be bettered this year ... one of the most memorable historical novels of the past decade."--Sunday Times

"Gloriously alive"--NPR

"Had Charles Dickens and Bram Stoker come together to write the great Victorian novel, I wonder if it would have surpassed The Essex Serpent? Sarah Perry establishes herself as one of the finest fiction writers working in Britain today."--John Burnside

"In Perry's excellent second novel... a fatal illness, a knife-wielding maniac, and a fated union with the Essex Serpent will dictate the ultimate happiness of [the] characters. Like John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman... this is another period literary pastiche with a contemporary overlay."--Publishers Weekly

"Irresistible"--People (Book of the Week)

"Perry fully inhabits many of the concerns and stylistic elements of the 19th century novel -- but its interests are still contemporary ones: desire, fulfillment and questioning the world... Her language is exquisite, her characterization finely tuned... [I]t's clear that Perry is a gifted writer of immense ability."--Irish Times

"Perry's achieved the near impossible...A thing of beauty inside and out... a stunning achievement."--The Independent

"Perry's second novel is a dazzling and intellectually nimble work of Gothic fiction."--San Francisco Gate

"Richly enjoyable... Ms. Perry writes beautifully and sometimes agreeably sharply... The Essex Serpent is a wonderfully satisfying novel. Ford Madox Ford thought the glory of the novel was its ability to make the reader think and feel at the same time. This one does just that."--Wall Street Journal

"Sarah Perry's novel of 19th century England tackles big ideas...reversals and sharp darts of psychological insight combined with a sense of the substance and feeling of late 19th-century ideas in bloom make this a fine novel, both historical and otherwise."--Newsday

"The sumptuous twists and turns of Perry's prose invite close reading, as deep and strange and full of narrative magic as the Blackwater itself. Stuffed with smarts and storytelling sorcery, this is a work of astonishing breadth and brilliance."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"The vivid, often frightening imagery... and the lush descriptions... create a magical background for the sensual love story between Sarah and Will. Book-discussion groups will have a field day with the imagery, the well-developed characters, and the concepts of innocence, evil, and guilt."--Booklist (starred review)

"Triumphs on every level, whether in its rich, evocative prose or its authentic Victorian detail, its credible, multifaceted characters or its high-stakes drama...Perry likened writing her novel to a 'possession.' Reading it, we find ourselves under a similar mesmerizing spell."--Minneapolis Star Tribune

About the Author

Sarah Perry is the internationally bestselling author of The Essex Serpent and After Me Comes the Flood. She lives in England.

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ HarperCollins; Reprint edition (24 April 2018)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 464 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 006266638X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0062666383
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 13.49 x 2.95 x 20.32 cm
  • Customer Reviews:
    3.9 out of 5 stars 2,012 ratings

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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5
2,012 global ratings

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Reviewed in Australia on 9 May 2018
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1.0 out of 5 stars Recommended book fails to win over readers
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 17 November 2018
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Sassy Brit
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tale (or Tail) of Victorian Values Where Faith & Science Cross.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 23 November 2017
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1.0 out of 5 stars Did not live up to the reviews at all - awful.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 17 December 2018
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Sue F
1.0 out of 5 stars I found it difficult to engage in and was really bored but read it to the end just to see ...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 10 October 2017
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3.0 out of 5 stars The Myth of True Love
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