I absolutely love historical fiction and read a lot of it; I love to learn history this way. I also enjoy reading science fiction, fantasy, horror, thriller and non-fiction science.
Cora Seaborne is a recent widow to an abusive husband and is reveling in her new found freedom. Dr. Luke Garrett saw Mr. Seaborne through his illness and is now enraptured with Mrs. Seaborne. He is also on the verge of performing open heart surgery, if only he had a willing participant. Taken with new found spirit, Cora travels to Essex with her son, Francis and friend Martha where there have been renewed rumors of a serpent haunting the town. There, in the small parish of Aldwinter, Cora meets Will, the local vicar, his beautiful and frail wife Stella and their children. Cora and Will, seemingly opposites, and with very different views of the serpent, strike up an unlikely friendship. As Cora spends more time in Aldwinter, the mystery and hysteria surrounding the serpent grows challenging the bounds of friendship in all directions.
The Essex Serpent is haunting and magical while being very firmly set in the reality of Victorian England. Rich and vivid writing makes the scenery and characters jump from the page. I was transfixed with Cora from the moment that she watched her husband die with a mixture of resolve, hope and giddiness. I loved that Cora was inspired by Mary Anning, a real paleontologist and so happily took up digging through the mud of a small farming village so unlike her London home. The mystery of the Essex serpent itself provides a mystery as well as a platform for the small parish of Aldwinter. I was intrigued by the real accounts of this 'Strange News Out of Essex,' but even more so by the fictional characters reactions to the serpent. Everything from hysteria to disbelief is displayed in the parish. However, it was not the serpent that was really the main focus of the book, but the unlikely friendships of the characters and how they progress. As much as I loved Cora and Will's friendship, I was interested in Stella and Frankie as well as Martha and Joanne. The Essex Serpent also shone light on a variety of Victorian London issues: advances in medical technology, housing crises, poverty, women's rights and gaining knowledge of the environment. Overall, a curious and addicting tale with as many facets as the serpent's scales that will be sure to take you on a delightful journey.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.