The Essex Serpent: The number one bestseller and British Book Awards Book of the Year (Paperback)
  • The Essex Serpent: The number one bestseller and British Book Awards Book of the Year (Paperback)
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The Essex Serpent: The number one bestseller and British Book Awards Book of the Year (Paperback)

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Paperback 432 Pages / Published: 14/07/2016
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Winner of the Waterstones Book of the Year 2016

 “The Essex Serpent blazed as the overwhelming choice by our booksellers to be their Book of the Year. It is one of those novels that takes possession of the reader in a physical embrace; to finish it is to feel released, deeply satisfied at every level. It is a treasure and we recommend this wonderful book to everyone.” – James Daunt, Managing Director of Waterstones

From the moment Sarah Perry’s second novel fell into our bookselling hands, we all instantly knew this was a title that shared our bookselling DNA. A murder, a monster, a love story and a heroine to rival the greats of 19th Century literature collide to make this the most deeply satisfying fiction you will read this year; we are proud to present The Essex Serpent as the winner of our Waterstones Book of the Year 2016.

Strange News Out of Essex...

The Essex earth had bucked as if trying to shake off all its towns and villages; for twenty seconds, no more, a series of convulsions that paused once as if breath were being drawn and then began again.

Now and again, books fall across our path that for even us as booksellers suddenly underline the sheer brilliance of just what a novel can achieve. The Essex Serpent is just such a book, effortlessly skipping between genres and written with astonishingly acute clarity. Reading copies suddenly became as gold dust between staff, the surest sign that Sarah Perry’s second novel was indeed something rather special.

Set in 1893 and firmly rooted in the author’s home county of Essex, the novel centres on the character of Cora Seaborne, a widow freed from a controlling, unhappy marriage. Retreating to the Essex countryside with her son, she hears the rumours surrounding the so-called ‘Essex Serpent’, a creature of folklore being blamed for a spate of deaths and disturbances and the cause of escalating panic in the local community. Her ensuing investigations bring her into contact with a clergyman, William Ransome, a man convinced of finding the answer to local hysteria in faith, just as Cora is on finding it in science. Despite their differing opinions, their lives become ever-more enmeshed, finding themselves bound to each other in ways neither could anticipate.



the_essex_serpent_muralOur The Essex Serpent mural at Waterstones Manchester Deansgate

‘Fertile, open, vocal about its own origins and passions, crammed with incident, characters and plot… narrative and voice coil together until it is very difficult to stop reading.’ – M John Harrison, The Guardian

Also shortlisted for the 2016 Costa Novel Award

Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
ISBN: 9781781258019
Number of pages: 432
Weight: 456 g
Dimensions: 216 x 135 x 30 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
One of the most memorable historical novels of the past decade * Sunday Times *
A work of great intelligence and charm, by a hugely talented author -- Sarah Waters
Had Charles Dickens and Bram Stoker come together to write the great Victorian novel, I wonder if it would have surpassed The Essex Serpent? One of the finest fiction writers working in Britain today -- John Burnside
The Essex Serpent is a novel to relish: a work of great intelligence and charm, by a hugely talented author -- Sarah Waters
Had Charles Dickens and Bram Stoker come together to write the great Victorian novel, I wonder if it would have surpassed The Essex Serpent? No way of knowing, but with only her second outing, Sarah Perry establishes herself as one of the finest fiction writers working in Britain today -- John Burnside
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
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry [is] a joyous and beguiling book that wrapped itself around me rather like its eponymous monster. -- Cathy Rentzenbrink
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
A book to make you want to be a better person -- Justine Jordan, The Guardian
I loved this book. 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 - and it contains some of the most beautiful evocations of place and landscape I've ever read. It is so good its pages seem lit from within. As soon as I'd finished it I started reading it again. -- Helen MacDonald
A sinuous historical novel by the genius that is Sarah Perry -- Lucy Mangan * Stylist *
An historical novel with real depth ... Perry writes fantastically, and this deserves attention for the rest of the year. -- Steven Cooper * The Bookseller *
One day this book will make a fine BBC period drama ... Perry is a wonderful descriptive writer with a remarkable talent for making the familiar strange ... Her accounts of open-heart surgery carried out half a century before antibiotics, or an autistic child questioning the nature of sin, or a soldier's wedding in the phthisic slums of Bethnal Green, snatch the breath in your throat. Perry bleeds light into darkness and back again with a mastery born of her deep professional acquaintance with the gothic tradition. -- Oliver Moody * Times *
The Essex Serpent is a work of historical fiction, set in the 1890s, which, for originality, richness of prose and depth of characterisation is unlikely to be bettered this year ... a remarkable novel. Although Will and Cora provide the focal points for her story, Perry has packed The Essex Serpent with a rich array of equally rounded characters to hold our attention. The novel is full of vivid set pieces ... it is Perry's ability to conjure up a sense of entire lives unfolding before our eyes that is most impressive. Filled with wisdom about human behaviour and motivations, and written in a distinctive, stylish prose, The Essex Serpent is one of the most memorable historical novels of the past decade. -- Nick Rennison * Sunday Times *
One for the holiday suitcase. A historical romance with a gothic twist ... expect to spot a copy on beach towels this summer. * Vogue *
An irresistible novel that taps the vein of Victorian gothic and British myth * Daily Telegraph *
It's prompted comparisons to both Dickens and Bram Stoker and marries the former's abhorrence of injustice with the latter's genius for unsettling atmosphere ... Hardy-esque ... a rich and complex novel but also a deeply enjoyable read, with warm humanity at its core. -- Jeff Robson * iPaper *
An irresistible novel ... Perry's Victoriana is the most fresh-feeling I can remember ... Her prose is often beautiful ... the tone is a masterstroke ... You feel the influences of Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens and Hilary Mantel channelled by Perry in some sort of Victorian seance. This is the best new novel I've read in years. It's the kind of work that makes you alive to the strangeness of the world and of our history. -- Charlotte Runcie * Daily Telegraph *
Engaging ... On the book's cover, John Burnside compares The Essex Serpent to Dickens and Stoker. But it was one of my favourite novels, Alasdair Gray's Poor Things (1992), that kept coming back to me ... Perry takes apart our preconceptions of prim Victorian mores with similar gusto ... The Essex Serpent is a historical novel with an entirely modern consciousness, and is every bit as gripping and unusual as its predecessor. -- Alex Preston * FT *
An intelligent, lushly written gothic yarn ... Reading it makes you want to hotfoot it to the Essex coast. -- Claire Allfree * Metro *
The Essex Serpent is frightfully good. -- Susan Hill * Twitter *
Everything they're saying is true: sumptuous, beautiful, powerful, engrossing, brilliant. -- Nina Stibbe * Twitter *

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Reviews

View all

“Book about love, passion and ideas...”

Set in Victorian London and an Essex village, in the late 19th century, this is the story of a clash of Gothic folklore and the scientific discoveries of its time. In an essence, it is a beautifully written story of... More

Hardback edition
21st March 2016
Helpful? Upvote 231

“A glorious sense of place”

This is a wonderful book, with a glorious sense of place and a delightful cast of characters - I loved Cora Seaborne and everything she stood for & hope to meet her again at some point.

Hardback edition
16th April 2016
Helpful? Upvote 133

“It will match any Victorian mystery”

Cora Seaborne has moved to Aldwinter, an Essex parish, upon the burial of her husband. Rumours are rife that the Essex Serpent, a marsh-dwelling creature first seen in the 17th Century, has returned, leaving Cora... More

Hardback edition
26th May 2016
Helpful? Upvote 129

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