The Essex Serpent

  • by Sarah Perry
  • Narrated by Juanita McMahon
  • 14 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

London 1893: When Cora Seaborne and her son Francis reach Essex, rumours spread from further up the estuary 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 is enthralled, convinced that it may be a previously undiscovered species.
As she sets out on its trail she meets William Ransome, Aldwinter's vicar. They find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart, eventually changing each other's lives in ways entirely unexpected.


What the Critics Say

"One of the most memorable historical novels of the past decade." ( Sunday Times)
" The Essex Serpent is a novel to relish: a work of great intelligence and charm, by a hugely talented author." (Sarah Waters)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

An Authentic Voice

Beautifully written, with fully fledged characters, a wholly believable plot and the perfect narrator, makes this book stand head and shoulders above the crowd. Sarah Perry has a gift, a special gift that means she really can paint pictures, induce smells, bring forth the tactile nature of her novels like few others can. I just loved it.
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- Christina

Give me the book!

This is an excellent book crammed with characters, history, myth, relationships and nineteenth century concerns from scientific discoveries to poverty and marriage. The sense of place in Essex in which the terrifying serpent does or doesn't live is beautifully created as are the contrasts between London city and the Marshes; the relationship between the widow Cora Seaborne (blissfully released by the death of her unpleasant husband) and William Ransome Vicar of Aldwinter is subtly developed; and the background of Cora's passion for bones and fossils and discovery always interesting.

But for me this didn't work as an audiobook and that's not the fault of the author or entirely of the narrator. The difficulty I found was that the story is so dense with ideas, incident, character, description, thoughts, historical themes and so on that listening to it is too fast, even confusing. I needed to flick back and re-read a page; dialogue can be read quickly, but the passages dense with ideas need to be read slowly and thought about. Sarah Perry constantly challenges the reader as well as the characters and that requires thinking and reading at my own pace. The narration is accomplished as it is a very complex work with many 'voices', but I found some of the rural Essex characters mere caricatures of what sounded like stereotypical exaggerated West Country, which just clogged up the story already brimful of other demands on the listener.


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- Rachel Redford

Book Details

  • Release Date: 28-07-2016
  • Publisher: Lamplight Audio