22 August 2022

The Essex Serpent


By Sarah Perry
Historical Fiction

My Review

After the death of her controlling husband in 1893, Cora Seaborne and her 11-year-old son Francis depart London for the Essex coast; believing fresh air and new surroundings will benefit them both. A keen amateur naturalist, Cora is fascinated when she hears rumours of a mythical beast, the 'Essex Serpent', prowling the marshes. Convinced no such creature exists, she sets out to prove it must be an undiscovered new species.

The Essex Serpent is a beautifully written book with wonderful descriptions transporting the reader to Victorian England. Although the characterisation is faultless, I found the pacing extremely tedious; which ultimately left me disappointed when I so much wanted to love it.

For a book well in excess of 400 pages, not a lot actually happened. I wanted more focus on the terrifying marsh creature but instead got what appeared to be a Victorian love triangle. Yes, I adored the writing but for me the lack of any meaningful plot let it down.        

Book Source: Competition prize
My Rating ⭐⭐⭐

Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Serpent's Tail (5th May 2022)
ISBN-13: 978-1788169622

The Blurb

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 thrilling and unforgettable novel of intrigue, love, and the many forms it can take.

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