Review: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
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 nineteen, 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 eleven-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.
"In the darkness he grows afraid. There's something there, he feels it, biding its time-implacable, monstrous, born in water, always with an eye cocked in his direction. Out he looks to the black Blackwater and there it is again- something clearing the surface then subsiding - yes, all along its been there, waiting, and at last its found him out. " (New Years Eve, The Essex Serpent)
This is a story of science and religion juxtaposed against Victorian societal norms of the day where the presence of Gothic darkness and malicious intent prevails. What happens in a sleepy, Essex village when, Cora Seaborne, a quiet science loving spinster arrives to research the 300 year old myth of a death seeking serpent? Does such a beast really exist?
Who knew she would be courted by the cold and violent vicar , Will Ransome. Their marriage was volatile to say the least; they were such opposites until Cora meets Luke. He shares her curious spirit but all is not as it seems in the parish village of Aldwinter. If only she knew what she was about to unleash and its wrath would know no bounds.
Sarah Perry writes unlike anyone else. Her writing, phrasing and descriptions are so incredibly beautiful it was as if Wilkie Collins and Daphne du Maurier had a child. Sarah Perry is a wordsmith and I am her captive. Nobody rescue me I am happy living within the pages of her dark, Gothic environments.