"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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)
"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
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.