Thursday, 1 June 2017

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

This was described as Dickens meets Bram Stoker and liking both of these authors I had high hopes.

The book was primarily chosen for its cover - especially nice in hard back, and whereas we hit gold with the Axemans Jazz chosen solely for its excellent cover The Essex Serpent didn't live up to expectations.

I liked the Dickensian parts, there were some excellent very Dickens like characters - Charles Ambrose, the man who lost his leg (was it Tom?) and the man who lived down by the marsh with his two goats (sorry can't remember his name either). Yet parts of the book were superfluous (Naomi and her disappearance) and the book seemed quite bitty at times - going to great pains to describe the ground breaking heart surgery despite it not being a book about medicine. Perry never really delved in to Cora's backstory with her husband other than to refer to her scar and how she envied how dogs were treated. It would have been an obvious point to expand and yet again illustrated how the book didn't flow quite right. It was put out there for the reader but not fleshed out enough.

I think my main problem with the book (and I appreciate I am on my own here) was the whole Cora/Will love affair. I strongly disagreed with this right from the get go. Will was a deeply committed vicar who by his own admission was deeply in love with his wife. When meeting Cora his wife was not ill (or at least not noticeably) (not that that would make an affair ok) and he had no reason at all to look elsewhere. Its something I've found I really don't like reading about (the affair in a previous book of the month, The Versions of Us really spoilt that book for me as well) so really the book was doomed to fail from my perspective.

I also was really disappointed with the serpent, all the little shadows here and the dark mists there (SPOILER ALERT) for it to turn out to be a big old fish and a rotting boat!!! Was I the only one who thought this?

I missed the meeting but apparently those of us who read it (and there weren't many) gave it an 8 out of 10 which is quite at odds with my take on the book. I can see why the group liked it, its old fashioned, gentile and a bit different to what's out there at present which on paper ticks all the boxes for me. However not even this or the attractive cover could rescue it for me.

I forced myself to finish reading it whilst on holiday and left it on the shelf of the holiday home we were staying in as it wasn't returning to my shelf!

Next book is Their Finest by Lissa Evans who tweeted me the best tweet ever about a goldfish named Seaton Deleval, long story.

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