Sarah Perry – The Essex Serpent

“There is nothing to be afraid of… except ignorance. What seems frightening is just waiting for you to shine a light on it.”

Quick synopsis: Cora Seaborne, following the death of her husband, relocates with her son, Francis, and part-nanny/part-confidante, Martha, to Essex where she meets Will Ransome and his family. The small village of Aldwinter that she moves to is rife with the legend of the Essex Serpent. Cora, an avid naturalist, is determined to find the snake, sparring with Will that the creature exists, amongst other things.

Thoughts and feelings: The pace of the book is slow – annoyingly slow. It takes place within a year [and October, my favourite month, is omitted and that irritates me], and great detail is gone into each character. Enough detail, that I can assess that I don’t like Cora, nor do I like Will. In fact, I was more interested in Luke Garrett, the kooky, macabre doctor who likes nothing better than to take people apart to see how the parts work, and put them back together again. Sadly, he is in love with Cora, who is in love with Will, and that forms roughly 70-75% of his storyline, which is sad because I wanted to know more about Luke outside of his love for Cora.

There are a lot of characters, and almost every character gets a point of view. Unlike the A Song of Ice and Fire series where you know where the character’s point of view begins/ends, there can be one paragraph that has one character’s thoughts and feelings and the next will be another character’s POV so it does take a lot of backtracking to try and understand it.

One of my favourite things to arise from this book is the fear of superstition. The Serpent of the book creates a superstition in this village, where its residents resort to rituals and religion to try and protect themselves from the Serpent’s grasp – with Will even noting at the end that his sermons are sparsely attended following the reveal – and there is a sense that a collective thought has settled upon the village and is slowly infecting the residents. Also, there is the concept of a man of the church, having this forbidden “romance” with another woman – using “romance” as gently as possible, because it was a slow sort of “falling in love” – and the imagery of a snake. It almost alludes to sin, and thinking back that is very, very clever. There’s a lot to draw from this book that I don’t want to pick apart and this is what I feel are the main points I want to give.

This book is slow. I have to say that. I struggled to turn pages – unless, they were about Luke because he is just so underrated – and that was because the pace of the book and characters were overdone. I can’t put my finger on it, but there was something missing that made me want to race through the pages and feel overly sad that it was over. Nevertheless, I would probably read this again because I think it’s one of those books that when you read it again, you would find something new to talk about so I’m excited for a second read.

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