The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
Set in Victorian London and an Essex village in the 1890’s, and enlivened by the debates on scientific and medical discovery which defined the era, The Essex Serpent has at its heart the story of two extraordinary people who fall for each other, but not in the usual way.
They are Cora Seaborne and Will Ransome. Cora is a well-to-do London widow who moves to the Essex parish of Aldwinter, and Will is the local vicar. They meet as their village is engulfed by rumours that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming human lives, has returned. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist is enthralled, convinced the beast may be a real undiscovered species. But Will sees his parishioners’ agitation as a moral panic, a deviation from true faith. Although they can agree on absolutely nothing, as the seasons turn around them in this quiet corner of England, they find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart.
I have been seeing this book everywhere and I have been wanting to read it for a long time. The summary basically has everything that I want in a good book and yet, I can only give it three stars at the moment. I really tried to like it, however, something just never clicked for me which just made me sad and frustrated. It could be partly my fault for having too many expectations, I generally get too excited for my own good when it comes to a book.
However no matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t connect with the characters in the book. I was almost afraid that it would go on my DNF shelf. However, I did finish it. See, the thing is, I really like the way Perry writes, it’s her characters I can’t connect with. I went in expecting some really spooky Gothic story and it wasn’t quite that. Not really.
I was expecting some terrifying creature to appear but it never did. There were some side plots that I would have loved to see more of. I wouldn’t mention it here because it could potentially spoil the book for you. However as I said before, her writing is really good, almost on par with the Victorian era? Her writing is absolutely descriptive and we are never left in doubt as to what era the book is set in, which, kudos to her. Seriously.
Her main character, Cora Seaborne is an interesting character which could have gone on to be even more interesting but somehow she didn’t do it for me. Then there was Will who didn’t seem religious enough for what he was supposed to be? Ugh, mixed feelings. I love the writing, the plot had so much potential to go in an interesting direction and yet, it didn’t.
So, with a really sad heart, I have to give it three stars. I would like to read more from her, I think because if you didn’t know, I really loved her writing style?
One thing I learned from this book though (which I have already learned, to be frank, but never quite manage to bring into practice.) that I really should not have too many expectations from any book, that I should keep my mind open for anything to happen. Oh well, let’s hope I do better with the next such novel.