The Essex Serpent MOBI ↠ The Essex PDF or

Alternate cover for isbn 9781781255452Set 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 wayThey 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 apartTold with exquisite grace and intelligence this novel is most of all a celebration of love and the many different guises it can take


10 thoughts on “The Essex Serpent

  1. says:

    ‘Sometimes I think I sold my soul so that I could live as I must Oh I don’t mean without morals or conscience—I only mean with freedom to think the thoughts that come to send them where I want them to go not to let them run along tracks someone else set leading only this way or that’ Frowning she ran her thumb along the serpent’s spine and said ‘I’ve never said this before not to anyone though I’ve meant to but yes I’ve sold my soul though I’m afraid it didn’t fetch too high a price I had a faith the sort I think you might be born with but I’ve seen what it does and I traded it in It’s a sort of blindness or a choice to be mad—to turn your back on everything new and wonderful—not to see that there’s no fewer miracles in the microscope than in the gospels’ ‘You think—you really think—that it is one or the other your faith or your reason?’ The Essex Serpent is a magnificent work that uses the form of the Gothic novel to explore real world and very human concerns It may be set in the late 19th century but it resonates with issues just as compelling as those of the 21st Superstition and faith versus science and fact The nature and limits of friendship the moral limits of medicine Sarah Perry has said “What most interests me about the past is not its otherness but its sameness” One manifestation is a concern with the housing horrors of the poor in 19th century London being squeezed by landlords and their residences being replaced by posh lodgings I wanted to portray a late nineteenth century which was in many respects ‘modern’ rather than a sort of Victoriana theme park of pea soupers and smelling salts By the 1890s you could travel by Tube and walk along an Embankment lit by electric lights you could have a tooth pulled under anaesthesia join a union read the Times buy frozen lamb shipped over from New Zealand and so on I suppose the obverse of saying 'they were rather like us' is to say 'and we are rather like them' and I do fear that we are regressing to a decidedly Victorian state when it comes to housing and a tendency to think of those who live in poverty as in some way deserving it due to a lack of virtue rather than mere ill fortune Cora Seaborne lately and happily relieved of her unloving but controlling husband by virtue of a fatal illness is no one’s idea of a damsel in distress Quite the opposite She has a passion for learning and exploration 1893 in the final decade of Victoria’s reign was an exciting time The World Columbian Exhibition opened in Chicago Wall Street suffered another stock crash Women voted for the first time in a national election in New Zealand Cora is eager to be a part of this new age of scientific growth Shedding her London home At Euston Square and Paddington the Underground stations received their passengers who poured in like so much raw material going down to be milled and processed and turned out of molds and indulging her growing interest in paleobiology Cora along with her on the spectrum son Francis and his nanny Cora’s friend Martha heads to Colchester in Essex “They’re finding fossils on the coastCora will be happy as a schoolboy there up to her knees in mud” Strange News out of Essex a woodwork from the 1669 pamphlet It is while on a random explore in the rain and considering her oneness with nature It struck her that everything under that white sky was made of the same substance—not quite animal but not merely earth where branches had sheared from their trunks they left bright wounds and she would not have been surprised to see severed stumps of oak and elm pulse as she passed Laughing she imagined herself a part of it and leaning against a trunk in earshot of a chattering thrush held up her arm and wondered if she might see vivid green lichen stippling the skin between her fingers that she first meets Pastor Will Ransome It definitely counts as meet cute when they neither knowing who the other is team up to retrieve an animal that had gotten stuck in the considerable mudThe pastor and the naturalist will form a beautiful bond as they engage in a dialectic of faith reason and respectful consideration and sometimes hostile confrontation The core of faith in tension with science is central Rumors of a serpent have been making rounds a return of a creature last reported in the 17th century Many of the locals indulge in superstition as fear spreads Will is determined to put an end to such notions but the naturalist Cora is hoping it might be a remnant of what had been thought a lost species a plesiosaur perhaps bringing to her scientific approach a considerable store of faith in the possible Perry plays these tensions like Itzhak Perlman on a Stradivarius Sarah Perry from The GuardianThe tension between faith and science is far from the only buzzing string here The connection Cora and Will make leads to battles of both the expected and surprising sorts and while the core of their words is beyond reproach their growing affection for each other excitement at intellectual challenge but also excitement at the very presence of the other makes for than a bit of discomfort While Cora is happily widowed Pastor Will remains smitten with his beautiful both in body and spirit wife Stella a star who would sparkle in any firmament Of course lustrous though she may be Stella is not exactly in the best of health Can Cora and Will’s friendship sustain or will it transform into something else? William Ransome and Cora Seaborne stripped of code and convention even of speech stood with her strong hand in his children of the earth and lost in wonder As for that beastie the notion for the story was a happy accident It was Sarah Perry’s husband who told her on a car journey through Essex having spotted a sign to the village of Henham about the legend of a serpent Perry felt her scalp tighten the better to grasp the idea and keep it safe inside her head – a feeling she has become used to when she thinks of something she knows will make a great book “Immediately I thought if that beast came back in the Victorian era post Darwin when there was a trend for natural history and people were fossil collecting people would have a very different response from those in the 17th century who had seen this beast” from The Guardian interview The structure of the core conflict came to Perry in a flash between myth and superstition and faith and reason and science and all of those clashing over this one potential beast But how best to orchestrate it?The Gothic form offered a welcome approach There are familiar elements sometimes reimagined The typical spooky castle finds an outlet in a natural setting a spot where civilization tapers off and the natural or supernatural? picks up a marshland abutting the Blackwater River near an estuary the fittingly named World’s End Darkness abounds there as do barely visible things and events that offer rich fodder for active imaginations 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 An atmosphere of mystery pervades Just what the hell is going on? An ancient and obscure prophecy portends unpleasantness ahead Well folks thereabouts are persuaded that the promise of the serpent’s return was being fulfilled Omens portents visions So many Supernatural or otherwise inexplicable events Yep and some pretty outstanding natural ones as well High even overwrought emotion Fuh shoo uh Science minded free at last widow meets studly passionate intellectually curious cleric And plenty of raised voices beside But the high emotional level also extends to being dazzled by beauty Women in distress Well not the usual sort Stella is particularly unwell but seems less stressed than enthralled by it Cora is a modern woman so no poor weak thing act being performed There is plenty of the vocabulary of the gothic For example chapter one begins One o’clock on a dreary dayThere is also the romantic element in the gothic approach The Will Cora connection has already been mentioned There are a few other connections of this sort that are addressed But the overwhelming connection throughout the book is of friendship even if the lines between where friendship leaves off and another kind of relationship picks up can be a bit murky and even if love is the beating heart of all sorts of friendships What I absolutely didn’t want to do was to write a book about two people who madly fancy each other and at the end of the book they fall in love and they get married That’s so tiresome and life is so much rich and complex and complicated than that I wanted to write about a relationship that is intimate and tender and exciting and even erotic but not a conventional ‘boy meets girl and they’re soulmates and they live happy ever after’ storyPerry aimed to write about as many different kinds of friendship love as I could find Ones which blur the boundaries between romantic love and friendship seeing sexual desire as something cathartic and benevolent even when it’s not connected to any kind of romantic attachment I still maintain that Cora and Will are basically friends but that their friendship is capacious and different and subject to change as human relationships are” from the Waterstones interview There are external elements throughout the book that buttress both nature and the sublime Perry has the eye of a naturalist She makes considerable and stunning use of this talent to breathe life into her landscapes When the rain set in she delved deeper between the trees turning her face to the featureless sky It was a uniform grey without shifting of clouds or sudden blue breaks and no sign at all of the sun it was an unwritten sheet of paper and against it the bare branches were black It ought to have been dreary but Cora saw only beauty—birches unfurled their strips of bark like lengths of white cloths and under her feet wet leaves were slick Everywhere bright moss had taken hold in dense wads of green fur swaddling the trees at their foot and fine pelts on broken branches that lay across the path There are plenty bits of this here Stella adds a particularly ethereal appreciation for the color blue both in its natural state and as manufactured Blue in fact tints the novel for a considerable swath in a way that is both beautiful and alarming Cora’s son Francis has an interest in the natural world as well and offers some insights although he lacks the experience to be able to interpret what he observes There is a rich supply of secondary characters some of whom receive starring role treatment They serve to illuminate issues of the day One is a doctor on the cutting edge of his profession another a memorable local who will mar your dreams with visions of unspeakable fence decorations and resident earwigs Martha’s social activism highlights the housing issues in London but also a sexual freedom that addresses the constraints of Victorian s Perry is not a satirist but she does offer a particularly delicious line from one of her supporting cast someone who dismisses notions of a returned monster I’m quite religious you know no patience for the supernaturalAs for gripes blissfully few The vanishing of one young lass lacked a persuasive rationale I thought There was one scene late in the book that I found a bit off putting but it would be too spoilerish to note it here Neither of these imperiled for me the overall joy I experienced reading this book For me the notion of the bliss of the beautiful that permeates TES can be summed up in a line from Cora ’It was just the light’ she said ‘up to its old tricks But how was my heart to know?’ A wondrous read satisfying to both heart and mind The Essex Serpent is a spectacular achievement a masterpiece by a gifted writer at the peak of her powerReview posted – 32417Publication May 27 2016 – the original hardcover in the UK June 6 2017 – by Custom House in the USA April 24 2018 trade paperNovember 15 2017 The Essex Serpent is named one of the top fifty notable works of fiction of the year by The Washington PostNovember 22 2017 The Essex Serpent is named one of its 100 Notable Books of the year by The New York TimesEXTRA STUFFLinks to the author’s personal and Twitter pages You should know that as of the date of this post her personal site was still under constructionInterviews The Guardian The Essex Serpent author Sarah Perry ‘Kids at school found me strange I didn’t mind’ interview by Emine Saner FiveBookscom Sarah Perry recommends the best Gothic Fiction Interview by Beatrice Wilford December 1 2016 Waterstones The Book Perry Was Meant to Write by Sally Campbell December 10 2016 The Essex Serpent British Library On the trail of the Essex Serpent Perry describes her encounter with the original 1669 pamphlet that inspired the novelThe Gothic Novel A fabulous lesson – This is where I got the list of Gothic novel characteristics I used for that part of the review Elements of the Gothic Novel A wonderful video from Studycom Gothic Novels Characteristics Examples it is limited though One must be a subscriber to see it all Still worth a lookFWIW In classical mythology Cora or Kore was another name of Persephone goddess of fertility and the underworld – from nameberrycom