The Essex Serpent

The Essex SerpentThe Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The language in this book is lovely and evocative. Ms. Perry’s familiarity with the mud and fogs of the Blackwater estuary is put to excellent use. The way the dialogue reads on the page calls forth real speech–some fits and starts, plenty of em dashes and commas, important things left unsaid, all mixed in with a few moments of beautiful insight.

Cora Seaborne and Will Ransome are a pairing unlike any other I’ve read in memory, and the alternating tension and understanding between them was my favorite part of the story.

The serpent is the ancient symbol of knowledge, and I think that’s true in this book as well. But for me it also symbolized desire–Cora goes chasing it, Will tries to pretend it doesn’t exist, pre-teen Joanna is terrified of it, and her friend Naomi runs away.

The subplots about socialism and housing reform sadly failed to capture my interest, and Martha deserved a bit better. Luke Garrett’s subplot was tightly written and engrossing, though. I found Stella Ransome to be fascinating and heartbreaking and even mostly believable, which I know many others did not.

I cannot wait to read what Sarah Perry comes up with next.

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