The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Genre: atmospheric fiction set in Victorian times. ⭐️Stars from Goodreads: 3.63. ⭐️Stars from me: 5.

General information

Cora Seaborne has recently become a widow. She has quite unexpected feelings about it. It will take you time to learn why. You will realise early on, though, that she’s quite an unusual person for England in 1893. She’s fascinated by science, biology and nature. She loves wearing men’s clothing and walking alone in the woods. She dreams about finding a living dinosaur. She takes her friend and her very special son to Essex where she does find something she didn’t expect to.

How was the book?

I loved it! But I know that many readers won’t share my opinion. The story is extremely slow. If you are not into slow reading, sophisticated writing and the main focus on personalities rather than on action, then you might not enjoy the book as much as I did.

What I loved about the book

The writing

Sarah Perry’s writing is intricate and intense. Each paragraph, each line, each phrase bears a lot of meaning. This is not complexity for the sake of complexity. She reaches to the truth in each sentence. To skip even one is to lose a lot.

The characters

This is what I want from characters in all books! The characters in The Essex Serpent are not only alive and breathing, they are actually interesting. You can’t shelf or label them, they are unique, just like real people are. There’s no other Cora Seaborne in the whole Universe, fictional or not, as there are no copies of any other characters in this story.

Views on friendship

I can’t think of any other book that explores friendship so deeply, and brings up such ideas about it. Books often focus on love. The Essex Serpent shows that there’s another type of relationship with just as much potential for passion and complexity as love is.

Perfectly knitted plot

I absolutely admire how Perry knitted all the details together. You can’t discard any big or minor events without ruining the whole construction.

What I liked less

If I weren’t such a fan of complicated deep writing and interesting personalities, I might have dropped the book midway. The first half of the book is as uneventful as bits of frozen wax on a candle. All action ceases and you feel like no movement will ever be made again. Unfortunately, I think it will draw many readers away.

Would I recommend the book?

If having read my review you got interested in the book, then I think you should definitely read The Essex Serpent. If you want a gripping fast-paced story about a dinosaur hunt, you should choose another book.

13 thoughts on “The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

    1. Then I think you might actually like it. As for friendship, Perry brings up very unexpected sides and depth of it. I loved it. I hope you will too 🙂

  1. You’ll probably not be surprised to hear I didn’t like this book! I think I liked it at first but it just dragged on without much happening. I’m one of the slow-story haters you anticipated would have issues with it 😉

    1. No, I’m actually totally surprised! If I had to choose bloggers who I think would like the book, I would definitely choose you. It’s probably because you love du Maurier too. But now when you pointed it out, I see what you mean. Daphne du Maurier always creates suspense, Perry gives none of it. It’s all just about immersing yourself into characters and very static situations. I also think I know where you dropped the book. As I said I would have dropped it too, if I wasn’t Perry’s fan. I wouldn’t urge you to return to it though. It is still more about personal histories and relationships rather than action.

      1. I did actually finish the book but I probably skim-read a lot of it! Yes I need suspense. I do have one of Perry’s other books on my shelf so I’m giving her another chance.
        I’m surprised that you’re surprised 😉

  2. Fab review! I loved it too but understand why some people didn’t get on with it! I enjoyed the slower pace as it really helped me connect with the characters!

  3. I enjoy slow writing, particularly if the characters are sympathetic – the dealbreaker for me is always unpleasant protagonists. But a slow-paced book that focuses on friendship – it sounds wonderful:). Thank you for sharing!

  4. I don’t mind a lack of outer action if there is depth and layered exploration of what is meaningful. I love well written and interesting language that makes you want to stop and think. And appreciate. Thanks for the review, and honesty.

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