Breathe in the briny Essex air in this Victorian escapade. It’s London, 1893, Cora Seaborne is happily widowed and dances into her new passion – being an amateur naturalist. However, when Cora hears rumours of a gigantic beast reappearing two hundred years after its last sighting in the parish of Aldwiter, she knows she must go at once. Along with her son Francis she leaves the smog of London for the saltiness of the marshes of Essex – to solve the mystery of the Essex Serpent.
In the depths of the Essex mud lives Reverend Ransome, a strict man of the cloth who believes the Essex Serpent to be nothing but a distraction from true faith in God’s will. When trying to rescue a struggling sheep from sinking into the Essex swamps he is helped by Cora Seaborne. Swiftly, the most unlikeliest of friendships is born; a constant battle of love and hate.
The Essex Serpent is first and foremost a triumphant celebration of the English language. Sarah Perry has such an evocative command of description that leaves even Tolkien a student of her skills. Her writing assaults your senses -you can feel the caked mud in between yours toes, the earwigs squirming in your pockets and the Essex dampness creeping into your collar. Sarah’s description lifts from the pages as if you were in a 3D effects cinematic experience – making her novel a terrific treat.
Sarah’s balance of superstition and science is delicately played through a series of delightful sub-characters such as an aspiring surgeon who looks like an imp and a crazy swamp man who decks his pathway with skinned moles to ward off the beast. In a time period where science was trying to find its feet amongst the staunchly held pagan villages; Sarah’s book is pitched perfectly right in the middle of the conversion.
Peter Dyer’s William Morris-inspired design is a tantalizing taste of the equally sumptuous storytelling that lies within.
4 out of 5 stars.
Image sourced by Amazon.