The Essex Serpent

  • by Sarah Perry
  • Narrated by Juanita McMahon
  • 14 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Costa Book Award Finalist and the Waterstones (UK) Book of the Year 2016
An exquisitely talented young British author makes her American debut with this rapturously acclaimed historical novel, set in late 19th-century England, about an intellectually minded young widow, a pious vicar, and a rumored mythical serpent that explores questions about science and religion, skepticism, and faith, independence and love.
When Cora Seaborne's brilliant, domineering husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness: her marriage was not a happy one. Wed at 19, this woman of exceptional intelligence and curiosity was ill-suited for the role of society wife. Seeking refuge in fresh air and open space in the wake of the funeral, Cora leaves London for a visit to coastal Essex, accompanied by her inquisitive and obsessive 11-year old son, Francis, and the boy's nanny, Martha, her fiercely protective friend.
While admiring the sites, Cora learns of an intriguing rumor that has arisen further up the estuary, of a fearsome creature said to roam the marshes claiming human lives. After nearly 300 years, the mythical Essex Serpent is said to have returned, taking the life of a young man on New Year's Eve. A keen amateur naturalist with no patience for religion or superstition, Cora is immediately enthralled, and certain that what the local people think is a magical sea beast may be a previously undiscovered species. Eager to investigate, she is introduced to local vicar William Ransome. Will, too, is suspicious of the rumors. But unlike Cora, this man of faith is convinced the rumors are caused by moral panic, a flight from true belief.
These seeming opposites who agree on nothing soon find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart - an intense relationship that will change both of their lives in ways entirely unexpected.
Hailed by Sarah Waters as "a work of great intelligence and charm, by a hugely talented author," The Essex Serpent is "irresistible...you can feel the influences of Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, and Hilary Mantel channeled by Perry in some sort of Victorian séance. This is the best new novel I've read in years." (Daily Telegraph, London).

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What the Critics Say

"I loved this book. At once numinous, intimate and wise, The Essex Serpent is a marvelous 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, author of H is for Hawk)
"An array of adjectives comes to mind at the opening words of this audiobook: alluring, poetic, with an air of exactness and aged wisdom.... Narrator Juanita McMahon expertly inhabits its sharp-tongued, sweet-spirited, stoic, wondrous characters. Her vocal characterizations are gothically charming.... A superb narration!" (AudioFile)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A Kind of 'Year in the Life of..' story.

This story is very character driven. Its mostly about what our characters were thinking about and what they were motivated by. And I will say that they are extremely interesting and likeable. Actually, our heroine wasn't my favorite character if I'm honest. The Essex Serpent is there through most of the book though!

I've read some comments about the narrator. Myself, I think she's a very talented narrator and enjoyed the listen very much. I did have to bump up the speed a bit. I think 'they' slow down the playback sometimes for some reason; excellent voices for all different characters. I will make the observation that perhaps one shouldn't go from a whisper to an actual shout unless doing a live reading. I believe a simulated shout is sufficient for audiobooks.

I enjoyed the book very much.

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- Midwesterner

Incredibly odd

What would have made The Essex Serpent better?

I'm at a loss for words, as this was truly a unique experience. Perhaps if an actual serpent would have trundled up out of the sea and ate the main character, Cora. Maybe then I could have cheered for the serpent and cared for at least one of the characters.


What was most disappointing about Sarah Perry’s story?

I think the most disappointing thing about this story is that is was actually published.


Would you be willing to try another one of Juanita McMahon’s performances?

I may be willing to listen to another of Juanita McMahon's performances if she promises to never use the horrible accent she used for Cora, ever again. Why in the world would a character, who according to the author, was born and raised in England, have a German/Austrian accent?


What character would you cut from The Essex Serpent?

The main character.


Any additional comments?

Can I get my credits back?

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- jtc

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-06-2017
  • Publisher: Harper Audio