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The Essex Serpent

London, 1893. When Cora Seaborne's controlling husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness. Along with her son Francis - a curious, obsessive boy - she leaves town for Essex, in the hope that fresh air and open space will provide refuge. 

On arrival, rumours reach them that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming lives, has returned to the coastal parish of Aldwinter. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist with no patience for superstition, is enthralled, convinced that what the local people think is a magical beast may be a yet-undiscovered species. As she sets out on its trail, she is introduced to William Ransome, Aldwinter's vicar, who is also deeply suspicious of the rumours, but thinks they are a distraction from true faith. 

As he tries to calm his parishioners, Will and Cora strike up an intense relationship, and although they agree on absolutely nothing, they find themselves at once drawn together and torn apart, affecting each other in ways that surprise them both.
The Essex Serpent is a celebration of love, and the many different shapes it can take.

The Essex Serpent cover

Read the first chapter here...

Read about creating the setting for The Essex Serpent here.

Praise for The Essex Serpent

'The Essex Serpent is a novel to relish: a work of great intelligence and charm, by a hugely talented author

- Sarah Waters

Had Charles Dickens and Bram Stoker come together to write the great Victorian novel, I wonder if it would have surpassed The Essex Serpent? No way of knowing, but with only her second outing, Sarah Perry establishes herself as one of the finest fiction writers working in Britain today.

- John Burnside

A big, warm, generous novel that wears its considerable wisdom lightly, The Essex Serpent is an absolute pleasure from start to finish - I truly didn't want it to end.

- Melissa Harrison

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry [is] a joyous and beguiling book that wrapped itself around me rather like its eponymous monster.

- Cathy Rentzenbrink


The Financial Times review by Alex Preston. 3rd June 2016

The Independent review by Lucy Scholes. 9th June 2016

The Irish Times review by Sinead Gleeson. 18th June 2016

The Australian review by James Bradley. 20th August 2016

The New Statesman review by Ben Myers. 19th July 2016

The Times review by Nick Rennison. 22nd May 2016

The Daily Express review by Charlotte Heathcote. 24th June 2016

The Spectator review by Anthony Cummins. 18th June 2016

The New York Times review by Jennifer Senior. 7th June 2017

The Washington Post review by Ron Charles. 5th June 2017

The Wall Street Journal review by Allan Massie. June 2nd 2017

The Christian Science Monitor review by Yvonne Zipp. June 19th 2017

NPR review by Ari Shapiro. 14th June 2017


Sunday Times Number One Bestseller

Waterstones Book of the Year 2016

Shortlisted for the Costa Novel of the Year 2016

Longlisted for the Dylan Thomas International Prize 2017

Longlisted for the Walter Scott Prize 2017

Longlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize

Longlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction

A BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime

Chosen for the Richard & Judy Bookclub

Shortlisted for the The Independent Bookshop Week Book Award

Winner of the British Book Awards 2017 (Fiction and Overall)

The Essex Serpent is published by Serpent's Tail

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