"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)
"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
"A work of great intelligence and charm, by a hugely talented author."--Sarah Waters, author of Fingersmith
"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
"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
"Everything they're saying is true: sumptuous, beautiful, powerful, engrossing, brilliant."--Nina Stibbe
"[T]he most deeply satisfying fiction you will read this year."--Waterstones Book of the Year
"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 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
THE SUNDAY TIMES NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER
Overall Book of the Year and Fiction Book of the Year at the British Book Awards 2017 (Nibbies)
Longlisted for the 2017 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction
The Waterstones Book of the Year 2016
Shortlisted for the 2016 Costa Novel Award
London, 1893. When Cora Seaborne's controlling husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness. Along with her son Francis - a curious, obsessive boy - she leaves town for Essex, in the hope that fresh air and open space will provide refuge.
On arrival, rumours reach them that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming lives, has returned to the coastal parish of Aldwinter. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist with no patience for superstition, is enthralled, convinced that what the local people think is a magical beast may be a yet-undiscovered species. As she sets out on its trail, she is introduced to William Ransome, Aldwinter's vicar, who is also deeply suspicious of the rumours, but thinks they are a distraction from true faith.
As he tries to calm his parishioners, Will and Cora strike up an intense relationship, and although they agree on absolutely nothing, they find themselves at once drawn together and torn apart, affecting each other in ways that surprise them both.
The Essex Serpent is a celebration of love, and the many different shapes it can take.