A Lush Victorian Tale of Science, Religion, Legend and Love: “The Essex Serpent” by Sarah Perry

On Art and Aesthetics

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry (2016, Serpent’s Tail)

I’m all for creative evolution and experimentation – new styles of storytelling, new modes of expression. Yet I love it when the best narrative aspects of a culture are preserved and celebrated over generations. The Essex Serpent (2016) – published by Serpent Tail’s (@serpentstail– is a book that seemed quintessentially and perfectly British to me. Like any proper British classic, The Essex Serpent is unapologetically lush in prose (in its evocations of both urban activity and provincial landscape), it gives generous attention to the nuances of human relationships and communication, and shines a light on issues of good and evil through a distinctively old-fashioned but eternally sharp Biblical idiom.

The scene is set in late nineteenth-century England. Cora Seaborne, an exceptionally gifted naturalist, has just lost her overbearing husband Michael. Relieved, after the funeral, she leaves with her eleven-year-old son Francis…

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