Like a placid lake, its calm waters still and reflective, it's languid ripples wind blown by the gentlest of breezes, the pale lily pads unmoving as the tall grasses at the pools edge bend their blades in graceful slow motion. The depths of the waters are deceptively deep disguised by the apparent tranquillity that pervades what is to all intents a love story made mysterious by the legendary serpent that writhes and undulates the suggestion of its dark existence from far below the surface.The myth of this marauding man-killer is the link by which the story is strung. Layered with longing,lust, love and a long-held fear and loathing of a thing never seen. This is the manner in which this novel, written by Sarah Perry, manages to wrap its coiled fiction around the reader's imagination.
The languid way the tale unfolds revealing a richly diverse set of characters as it unwinds its interwoven narrative is as beguiling as it is captivating.
For years Cora Seaborne has been married to Michael.He has been an abusive, cruel, manipulative man. His death brings her a sudden sense of freedom rather than grief. Along her faithful companion, Martha, Cora heads off to the marshlands of Essex. It is here,East of London, where the pair encounters the mythical Essex Serpent.
However, it isn't just a myth they meet. For Cora also runs into the Reverend William Ransome, a married man, one of the cloth, a man as devout as Cora is irreligious. But Cora is not without her own admirers. The doctor who cared for her dying husband, a man she calls the 'imp,'has eyes only for her.
Although elusive the Essex Serpent is the tension by which Sarah Perry captures the reader's interest. Forever lurking on the periphery of the story she weaves this beast into the very fabric of estuary where the scene is so set so that Aldwater reeks of its presence and the lives of the inhabitants are inexorably linked with the shadowy whisper of the mysterious creature.
The style of writing is graceful and oddly of another age. Sarah Perry captures the time the story is set in perfectly. She somehow fuses Thomas Hardy with Susan Hill. This is a love story, a dark psychological horror, an intimate treatise on friendship, of the county of Essex, of religion versus science.
It is one of the books of 2016.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.