Book Review: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry


Excerpt of the Goodreads summary:

They are Cora Seaborne and Will Ransome. Cora is a well-to-do London widow who moves to the Essex parish of Aldwinter, and Will is the local vicar. They meet as their village is engulfed by rumours that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming human lives, has returned. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist is enthralled, convinced the beast may be a real undiscovered species. But Will sees his parishioners’ agitation as a moral panic, a deviation from true faith. Although they can agree on absolutely nothing, as the seasons turn around them in this quiet corner of England, they find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart.


I had mixed feelings after reading this book. It was slow start for me and after pulling myself through the first 80 pages which is mainly the description of London, Colchester and Essex but hardly anything to do with the actual plot, I started to consider if this book was not for me. But this book was highly rated from accounts I really trust so I kept going and I’m glad I did. The plot really picks up speed after the first 100 odd pages. Now, I wouldn’t say that this book is going to make it to the top books I’ve read this year, but I don’t regret reading this either.

Reading this book made me realize that I don’t care for atmospheric descriptions which really don’t add much to the plot. I do think it is important to transport the reader to the time in which the book takes place, but if that is just description of the mud of the nature of that time for pages on end then that is something which I do not care for at all. I’d rather skip that part.

I book had some very interesting characters and I enjoyed that part especially the chemistry between Cora Seaborne and Will Ransome. However, there was a parallel story about another character Martha where it felt like the author was really trying to include some important social themes which didn’t add to the main plot at all and felt like a parallel story running.

The book summary indicated that there would be a clash between religion and science but I don’t think there was enough of it. The vicar Will Ransome was not as religious as you would expect as hence, most times you would find Cora first misunderstanding and then agreeing to what Will had to say which made me think that the author missed the point.

There was another character Luke Garett who is in love with Cora (no a spoiler as you would know this during the first 20 pages). I really disliked his character until much later in the book where he writes a letter to Cora. The letter was brilliant and made me appreciate the author’s writing a lot more. I re-read that letter almost 3 times.

I also appreciated the ending. It was not a cliche ending as you would expect by reading the first 300 pages for the book. It came unexpectedly but was rather satisfying. Overall, I think there was a good balance of romance, suspense and drama once the story picked up. But I also felt that this work of fiction had a lot more potential and my enjoyment of the book would have increased if there were less atmospheric descriptions and if the writing was focused on the main plot.

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I am conflicted to give an overall rating for this book. I feel like this book would be a hit or miss depending on the type of reader. Some might really enjoy exactly those things which I said I didn’t like.

Rating – ♥♥♥/ 5

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8 thoughts on “Book Review: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

    • Spunkyreads says:

      The cover is gorgeous! If you’ve read Jane Eyre and loved the added atmospheric detail, chances are you’ll like this! The plot is great, but for me it could have been 70-80 pages less

      Liked by 1 person

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