Book Review: ‘The Essex Serpent’ by Sarah Perry

Sarah Perry describes the writing of her second novel, The Essex Serpent, as ‘a kind of joyous outpouring’. The result of this is an elegant, historical narrative with a contemporary appeal. Set in 1893, Perry’s richly descriptive language is quick to evoke a dark, gothic Victorian era that fans of Sarah Waters or A.S. Byatt are sure to revel in. The novel begins in London, and Cora Seaborne – a passionate, amateur naturalist whose heroine is Mary Anning – has just been liberated from the pearls and petticoats of high society by the death of her abusive husband, Michael. Together with her son Francis and companion Martha, Cora relocates to Essex where there are rumours that a mysterious serpent creature is resurfacing from the ominous Blackwater Estuary.

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