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Publisher's Summary

London 1893: When Cora Seaborne and her son Francis reach Essex, rumours spread from further up the estuary 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 is enthralled, convinced that it may be a previously undiscovered species.
As she sets out on its trail she meets William Ransome, Aldwinter's vicar. They find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart, eventually changing each other's lives in ways entirely unexpected.
©2016 Sarah Perry (P)2016 W.F. Howes Ltd
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Critic Reviews

"One of the most memorable historical novels of the past decade." (Sunday Times)
"The Essex Serpent is a novel to relish: a work of great intelligence and charm, by a hugely talented author." (Sarah Waters)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Lucy on 06-29-17


Which character – as performed by Juanita McMahon – was your favorite?

Wil Ransom.

Any additional comments?

This book bursts with colour, creativity, passion, history, intelligence, unique characters, and strong women. Perry is obviously an extremely learned writer, and one who is no less engaging for being so. I am totally flabbergasted at the negative reviews here. This is something bordering on a masterpiece; we don't often see such novels written these days. At its heart is a meditation on faith and reason, which might sound boring, but Perry truly makes it fascinating, seamlessly embedding it within the interactions between characters as she does. If it makes a difference to potential readers, I love both contemporary and classical fiction. I enjoyed the first half, but don't think I was completely hooked until the second. It was definitely worth hanging in there. There are some truly breathtaking passages especially towards the end of the novel. Enjoy!

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By Megan on 12-15-16

Good Story Let Down by Poor Performance

This is a general plea to the producers and narrators of audiobooks: a book is not a screenplay, and reading a book is not an enactment of a play. So why, oh why, must narrators insist on acting out a book? Juanita McMahon has a lovely reading voice: articulate, gentle and almost perfect. But what possesses her to portray every male character as a blustering buffoon or every female one a simpering simpleton, I do not know. It ruins the book. We are not children in need of the acting out of stories (for that I turn to the theatre or to television). We simple want a story beautifully told. I'm only half-way through the book and I am truly interested in the story but I don't think I can carry on. This is the third audio book in a row where I've encountered this problem. So I beg you, fine ladies and gentlemen of audio-land, please stop.

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Customer Reviews

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By Christina on 09-20-16

An Authentic Voice

Beautifully written, with fully fledged characters, a wholly believable plot and the perfect narrator, makes this book stand head and shoulders above the crowd. Sarah Perry has a gift, a special gift that means she really can paint pictures, induce smells, bring forth the tactile nature of her novels like few others can. I just loved it.

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27 of 30 people found this review helpful

By Rachel Redford on 12-17-16

Give me the book!

This is an excellent book crammed with characters, history, myth, relationships and nineteenth century concerns from scientific discoveries to poverty and marriage. The sense of place in Essex in which the terrifying serpent does or doesn't live is beautifully created as are the contrasts between London city and the Marshes; the relationship between the widow Cora Seaborne (blissfully released by the death of her unpleasant husband) and William Ransome Vicar of Aldwinter is subtly developed; and the background of Cora's passion for bones and fossils and discovery always interesting.

But for me this didn't work as an audiobook and that's not the fault of the author or entirely of the narrator. The difficulty I found was that the story is so dense with ideas, incident, character, description, thoughts, historical themes and so on that listening to it is too fast, even confusing. I needed to flick back and re-read a page; dialogue can be read quickly, but the passages dense with ideas need to be read slowly and thought about. Sarah Perry constantly challenges the reader as well as the characters and that requires thinking and reading at my own pace. The narration is accomplished as it is a very complex work with many 'voices', but I found some of the rural Essex characters mere caricatures of what sounded like stereotypical exaggerated West Country, which just clogged up the story already brimful of other demands on the listener.


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37 of 44 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By mary on 11-15-17


A wonderful tale, with touches of a medieval mystery. Vivid characters leap out of the page to bemuse and bewitch. l'd be interested to know in which decade the tale was set though. That wasn't clear, but nor was it important, except in the political and sociological context. Something different, to enjoy.

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