The Essex Serpent: A Novel by Sarah PerryThe Essex Serpent: A Novel by Sarah Perry

The Essex Serpent: A Novel

bySarah Perry

Paperback | June 6, 2017 | Large Print

Pricing and Purchase Info

$30.58 online 
$33.50 list price save 8%
Earn 153 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store


In stock online

Ships free on orders over $25

Not available in stores


A Kirkus Review Best Book of 2017 and a Washington Post Notable Work of Fiction. Winner of the British Book Awards Fiction Book of the Year and overall Book of the Year, selected as the Waterstones Book of the Year, and a Costa Book Award Finalist

"A novel of almost insolent ambition--lush and fantastical, a wild Eden behind a garden's part ghost story and part natural history lesson, part romance and part feminist parable. I found it so transporting that 48 hours after completing it, I was still resentful to be back home."  -New York Times

“An irresistible new novel…the most delightful heroine since Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice…By the end, The Essex Serpent identifies a mystery far greater than some creature ‘from the illuminated margins of a manuscript’: friendship.”  -Washington Post

"Richly enjoyable... Ms. Perry writes beautifully and sometimes agreeably sharply... The Essex Serpent is a wonderfully satisfying novel. Ford Madox Ford thought the glory of the novel was its ability to make the reader think and feel at the same time. This one does just that." -Wall Street Journal

An exquisitely talented young British author makes her American debut with this rapturously acclaimed historical novel, set in late nineteenth-century England, about an intellectually minded young widow, a pious vicar, and a rumored mythical serpent that explores questions about science and religion, skepticism, and faith, independence and love.

When Cora Seaborne’s brilliant, domineering husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness: her marriage was not a happy one. Wed at nineteen, this woman of exceptional intelligence and curiosity was ill-suited for the role of society wife. Seeking refuge in fresh air and open space in the wake of the funeral, Cora leaves London for a visit to coastal Essex, accompanied by her inquisitive and obsessive eleven-year old son, Francis, and the boy’s nanny, Martha, her fiercely protective friend.

While admiring the sites, Cora learns of an intriguing rumor that has arisen further up the estuary, of a fearsome creature said to roam the marshes claiming human lives. After nearly 300 years, the mythical Essex Serpent is said to have returned, taking the life of a young man on New Year’s Eve. A keen amateur naturalist with no patience for religion or superstition, Cora is immediately enthralled, and certain that what the local people think is a magical sea beast may be a previously undiscovered species. Eager to investigate, she is introduced to local vicar William Ransome. Will, too, is suspicious of the rumors. But unlike Cora, this man of faith is convinced the rumors are caused by moral panic, a flight from true belief.

These seeming opposites who agree on nothing soon find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart—an intense relationship that will change both of their lives in ways entirely unexpected.

Hailed by Sarah Waters as "a work of great intelligence and charm, by a hugely talented author," The Essex Serpent is "irresistible . . . you can feel the influences of Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, and Hilary Mantel channeled by Perry in some sort of Victorian séance. This is the best new novel I’ve read in years" (Daily Telegraph).

Sarah Perry’s first novel, After Me Comes the Flood, was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Folio Prize, and won the East Anglian Book of the Year Award. She was born in Essex and lives in Norwich, England.
Title:The Essex Serpent: A NovelFormat:Paperback | Large PrintDimensions:592 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.18 inPublished:June 6, 2017Publisher:HarperCollinsLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0062670387

ISBN - 13:9780062670380

Look for similar items by category:


Rated 2 out of 5 by from Meh How can I say this? This is not what I would call a good book. I feel like it's my fault - I loved the cover, I read the synopsis on the inside and I feel like I was expecting a very different story. What I got was a repressed, angst-ridden Victorian love story (sort of?)...
Date published: 2018-02-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Highly recommend! As someone who loves all things Victorian, this was right up my alley! I really enjoyed Perry's writing, which was often poetic. Although the story was gripping, the characters themselves were a little less so. Nonetheless, one of my favourite novels of the year.
Date published: 2017-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from If you're looking for 50 shades, avoid this book.. I saw this book a while back, and thought i'd get it despite the negative comments. If you read up on Sarah Perry, she was exposed to old literature from the moment she could read. She is an amazing writer and I look forward to reading her future books. This story gives you just the right amount of information to keep you guessing. Just when you think you know what's going to happen, it changes. I absolutely loved her writing, and this story. If you're a fan of Jane Austen, you'll love Sarah's work.
Date published: 2017-11-24
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A bit of a disappoint On the surface this book had everything that interested me: a newly widowed Victorian woman, a mysterious monster lurking in the mists of coastal essex, and a beautiful front cover. Although I began the novel with excitement, I quickly learned that the story was better in theory than in practice. At first, I couldn't put my finger on it. It had everything I wanted! I should have enjoyed it! It was destined to be a favourite. But the writing was altogether bland and, despite trying really hard, I didn't seem to care about any of the characters. Stay away from this book.
Date published: 2017-09-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Disappointed The book didn't get interesting until 200 some pages in, and even so there was no real climax or satisfying conclusion to the novel. In addition, the characters were fairly uninteresting, and the overall plot was rather overrated. The elements of mystery were lacking. I was disappointed because the novel sounded really interesting but in reality it was slow and underwhelming.
Date published: 2017-09-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A bit disappointed It was good, yes but not great. The storyline and setting were intriguing but slow and there was no climax or aspect to ponder about afterward. A bit disappointed, to be honest as it came highly recommended. The Wonder by Emma Donaghue is a much better example of compelling historical fiction, in my opinion.
Date published: 2017-04-25

Editorial Reviews

“Sarah Perry’s novel of 19th century England tackles big ideas...reversals and sharp darts of psychological insight combined with a sense of the substance and feeling of late 19th-century ideas in bloom make this a fine novel, both historical and otherwise.”