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Proudly Presenting the Waterstones Book of the Year 2016

Sarah Perry’s Gothic Masterpiece The Essex Serpent


The moment Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent fell into our hands we knew what we had. From the off, booksellers eagerly pressed it into each other’s hands; word of its quality, its sense of world-building, language and place swiftly spread. The novel’s later inclusion to our Waterstones Book of the Year 2016 shortlist only naturally reflected our passion for this beautifully-crafted gothic drama.



This morning we are enormously proud to confirm Sarah Perry’s triumph over this impressive shortlist by announcing The Essex Serpent as the winner of our Waterstones Book of the Year 2016, joining a very select list of previous winners who – by their very quality and independence – define who we are as a bookseller. Managing Director for Waterstones James Daunt commented:

 "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.”

Set in the brooding marshes of late Victorian Essex, the recently-widowed Cora Seagrave relinquishes the staid predictability of the capital to pursue rumour of a great, unknown beast, a ‘living fossil’ dwelling in the county’s desolate borderlands. Seagrave’s obsession – the enthusiasms of a new kind of independent woman, brimming with enquiry – bring her into conflict with Ransome, the local vicar seeking an oasis of faith; it’s a quarrel that ultimately kindles a far more personal tension. Beyond, a brilliantly-drawn cast describe a world that is itself at odds, an edgeland where tradition slides inexorably toward the modern.


“I am delighted beyond measure that The Essex Serpent is the Waterstones Book of the Year,” declared Sarah upon the news of her victory. “From the moment The Essex Serpent was released, Waterstones’ booksellers were true friends of the book, and week after week I was moved and astonished by the creativity that went into windows, displays and murals all over the country. No author could hope for better champions of their work, or a more heartfelt introduction to readers, and I could not be more grateful.”

Sarah Perry


It’s a hugely deserved win and one that we hope will only further an impressive writing career that began in 2014 with her noted debut After Me Comes the Flood. Our adoration for Sarah’s second novel is absolute; available now as a gorgeous, re-jacketed special edition, we thoroughly recommend that you too step into the myth that is The Essex Serpent.