Sarah Perry’s latest novel proves to be as elusive a beast as the Essex Serpent itself: a story which coaxes the reader into a literary terrain every bit as shifting and unstable as the salt marshes amongst which it is set.
Following the death of her abusive husband, Cora Seaborne sets about reinventing herself – stretching her wings and re-evaluating her relationship with her friends, and with society in general. Freeing herself from the disapproving gaze of Victorian London, Cora moves to Essex in the hope of scouring the local beaches for fossils. Intrigued by the possibility that a “living fossil” may have been sighted near the village of Aldwinter, with local sightings of a winged sea beast reported, she moves there with her friend Martha and autistic son Frankie.
In truth, if there is any geology to be had in this novel, it is of the personal sort –…
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