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The Essex Serpent: A Novel Audiobook, by Sarah Perry Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Sarah Perry Narrator: Juanita McMahon Publisher: HarperAudio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: June 2017 ISBN: 9780062676634
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Costa Book Award Finalist and the Waterstones (UK) Book of the Year 2016

"I loved this book. At once numinous, intimate and wise, The Essex Serpent is a marvelous novel about the workings of life, love and belief, about science and religion, secrets, mysteries, and the complicated and unexpected shifts of the human heart—and it contains some of the most beautiful evocations of place and landscape I’ve ever read. It is so good its pages seem lit from within. As soon as I’d finished it I started reading it again."—Helen MacDonald, author of H is for Hawk

An exquisitely talented young British author makes her American debut with this rapturously acclaimed historical novel, set in late nineteenth-century England, about an intellectually minded young widow, a pious vicar, and a rumored mythical serpent that explores questions about science and religion, skepticism, and faith, independence and love.

When Cora Seaborne’s brilliant, domineering husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness: her marriage was not a happy one. Wed at nineteen, this woman of exceptional intelligence and curiosity was ill-suited for the role of society wife. Seeking refuge in fresh air and open space in the wake of the funeral, Cora leaves London for a visit to coastal Essex, accompanied by her inquisitive and obsessive eleven-year old son, Francis, and the boy’s nanny, Martha, her fiercely protective friend.

While admiring the sites, Cora learns of an intriguing rumor that has arisen further up the estuary, of a fearsome creature said to roam the marshes claiming human lives. After nearly 300 years, the mythical Essex Serpent is said to have returned, taking the life of a young man on New Year’s Eve. A keen amateur naturalist with no patience for religion or superstition, Cora is immediately enthralled, and certain that what the local people think is a magical sea beast may be a previously undiscovered species. Eager to investigate, she is introduced to local vicar William Ransome. Will, too, is suspicious of the rumors. But unlike Cora, this man of faith is convinced the rumors are caused by moral panic, a flight from true belief.

These seeming opposites who agree on nothing soon find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart—an intense relationship that will change both of their lives in ways entirely unexpected.

Hailed by Sarah Waters as "a work of great intelligence and charm, by a hugely talented author," The Essex Serpent is "irresistible . . . you can feel the influences of Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, and Hilary Mantel channeled by Perry in some sort of Victorian séance. This is the best new novel I’ve read in years" (Daily Telegraph, London).

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Narrator Juanita McMahon expertly inhabits its sharp-tongued, sweet-spirited, stoic, wondrous characters. Her vocal characterizations are gothically charming. She virtually becomes imperious Cora Seaborne, questioning Reverend Ransome, and crabby old-man Cracknell. Her voice enlarges the book’s legends and mythical tales. Painting pictures with her intonations, McMahon makes clear distinctions between the numerous characters who shape Perry’s second novel. A superb narration! Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award.”

    AudioFile

  • “Juanita McMahon brilliantly animates Sarah Perry’s characters in her narration…Listeners hear newly widowed Cora Seaborne flourish in strength; sense the wonder of her strange son, Francis; and feel Cracknell the fisherman spit and sputter…Martha, Cora’s saucy friend and nanny, provides a touch of comedy to this late 19th-­century English tale. ­McMahon gives them each her full attention, creating a wholly formed listening ­experience.”

    Library Journal (audio review)

  • “At once numinous, intimate, and wise, The Essex Serpent is a marvelous novel about the workings of life, love, and belief.”

    Helen MacDonald, New York Times bestselling author

  • “Perry weaves modern day themes of a woman’s role and desire for independence into a tale that flows like the water where the monster resides.”

    RT Book Reviews (4 stars)

  • “Lush and fantastical, a wild Eden behind a garden gate…it’s part ghost story and part natural history lesson, part romance and part feminist parable.”

    New York Times

  • “Triumphs on every level, whether in its rich, evocative prose or its authentic Victorian detail, its credible, multifaceted characters or its high-stakes drama…Mesmerizing.”

    Minneapolis Star Tribune

  • “A dazzling and intellectually nimble work of Gothic fiction.”

    San Francisco Gate

  • “Dickensian in scope, depth, and exquisite use of language… At once love story and mystery, deeply penetrating layered characters with wit and grace.”

    Historical Novels Review

  • “Exercise caution approaching this literary garden pavilion…You just may find yourself unable to leave.”

    Library Journal (starred review)

  • “The sumptuous twists and turns of Perry’s prose invite close reading…A work of astonishing breadth and brilliance.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “The vivid, often frightening imagery…and the lush descriptions…create a magical background for the sensual love story between Sarah and Will.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Excellent…Another period literary pastiche with a contemporary overlay. Cora makes for a fiercely independent heroine around whom all the other characters orbit.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “A work of great intelligence and charm, by a hugely talented author.”

    Sarah Waters, author of Fingersmith

  • Longlisted for the 2017 Baileys’ Women’s Prize for Fiction
  • AudioFile Earphones Award Winner
  • Shortlisted for the 2016 Costa Book Award
  • Finalist for the Library Journal Best Audiobook Listen List
  • A 2017 Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year
  • Winner of the British Book Award for Fiction and for Overall Book of the Year
  • A People Pick of the Week

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About the Author

Sarah Perry is an author whose first novel, After Me Comes the Flood, was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Folio Prize. She holds an MFA in nonfiction from Columbia University, where she served as publisher of Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art and was a member of the journal’s nonfiction editorial board. She is the recipient of a Writers’ Fellowship from the Edward F. Albee Foundation and a Javits Fellowship from the US Department of Education and has attended residencies at Norton Island in Maine and PLAYA in Oregon.

About the Narrator

Juanita McMahon is an Earphones Award–winning narrator and a professionally trained actress with experience in theater, television, and film productions, including the critically acclaimed Control, which won the BIFA Best British Film Award.