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The Essex Serpent - October CC Book Club Selection

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Replies to: The Essex Serpent - October CC Book Club Selection

  • CaraidCaraid Registered User Posts: 286 Junior Member
    I don't think Naomi and Joanna will be close friends in the future. I agree that Naomi matured after running away and think Joanna did as well. Joanna learned how her actions can impact the life of another person.
  • silverladysilverlady Registered User Posts: 539 Member
    I really liked the book. (It has been a busy October with an unexpected medical diagnosis, a church yard sale and our leaving for London and Paris today.). I really loved Cora and Stella. I really felt that they were meant to be friends. They together become the perfect "lover" of Will. Hard to explain, but he needs both.

    I was struck by all of the friendships in the book. They weren't superficial - which is what I sometimes think of the Victorian era. Everyone proper and restrained with no depth. There were real connectionst Corat with depth. I loved the preconceived notions of Will and Stella about Cora. After the first couple of chapters, I threw away all of my preconceived ideas and just enjoyed.

    I will read the book again.
  • ignatiusignatius Registered User Posts: 3,087 Senior Member
    ^^^ I enjoyed the preconceived notions also - including the one re a pastor's daughter that concluded with Joanna walking into the church.

    I don't remember the point where I realized the book was going to head in unexpected directions (at least for me). However, there were plenty of clues on the way to that point. @mathmom said it well in post #44:
    mathmom wrote:
    Once I stopped trying to read the novel I thought I was reading, and instead paid attention to what was really going on, I ended up loving it.
  • Mary13Mary13 Registered User Posts: 3,495 Senior Member
    silverlady wrote:
    I really loved Cora and Stella. I really felt that they were meant to be friends. They together become the perfect "lover" of Will. Hard to explain, but he needs both.

    So true! Maybe that's one of the messages overall--that no one human being can fill all the needs of another person. We're like the pieces of a great puzzle, where all the parts fit together, connected on many sides. Martha, for example, needs Cora, but she also needs Edward. And she needs Spencer too, although she feels a little guilty about that.
  • SouthJerseyChessMomSouthJerseyChessMom Registered User Posts: 3,444 Senior Member
    @ignatius you wrote about the novel going in "unexpected directions" and I'm curious how it surprised you? In what way did it deviate from your expectations ??
    Did you expect Cora and Will to live happily ever after?

    Favorite relationship Cora and Stella, (well maybe most memorable characters).Stella's Blue fixation was brilliant because it "cleaves" her in my brain.

    Also, wowed by Perry's writing, and enjoyed the "feminist " and " political" themes.
    Delighted at the "meet/cute" first meeting of Cora and Will as mentioned my Mary13.
    Loved that Naomi wasn't raped, or sexually abused,as I feared after the groping in the bar scene.

    Enjoyed that there weren't many dark aspects within the plot, except for the silly " Essex serpent". Ok, those skinned moles, gross.
    Disliked how the mysterious Essex serpent plot was resolved, underwhelmed.
    There were more than a few times I spoke aloud " no,no, no" (yes the forest escapade was one of those moments) ......and, gasped at the surprising developments- finding the book suspenseful and a page turner at the end.

    I envisioned Kate Winslet as Cora, and I thoroughly liked this "imperfect" character.
    Book cover won an award, and glad I actually had the book.

    Funny moment - while checking out the book at the library, the new woman at the desk, rubbed her hand over the cover, and remarked what an unusual cover, and hoped the book lived up to that unique artwork,

    It certainly did.



  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 29,462 Senior Member
    I'm not ignatius, but for some reason I was convinced for the longest time that the novel was going to be a bit of a thriller mystery where Cora goes off looking for fossils and instead solves the mystery of the man who dies in the first chapter. (Who was actually murdered and not the victim of a drunken accident - so of course more murders would have to ensue.) I don't know what review made me think this was plausible, but while that might have been a fun book, I'm pretty sure what we got was a lot more interesting!
  • Mary13Mary13 Registered User Posts: 3,495 Senior Member
    ^ Forgot about that guy!
  • ignatiusignatius Registered User Posts: 3,087 Senior Member
    I guess I thought the book would be more plot-driven - a quest in search of the Essex serpent. Instead the book focuses on the characters with the "serpent" of less import than relationships. When Will and Cora meet-cute and Spencer's unrequited love for Martha slides into the story, I then thought we headed into romance novel territory (while still expecting the serpent to surface). Instead of romance though, we had such a variety of interrelationships between the characters: main characters - yes, but also minor characters such as Thomas with Naomi, Luke to Edward to Martha, the Ambroses with the Ransome children and so on.

    Like @SouthJerseyChessMom, I'm glad I have the book for its cover.

    I think marketers - even reviewers - did the book a disservice by not handling its descriptors well.
  • Mary13Mary13 Registered User Posts: 3,495 Senior Member
    edited October 10
    Here's a very positive review of the book: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/the-essex-serpent-by-sarah-perry-book-review-a-thing-of-beauty-inside-and-out-a7072981.html

    In re @SouthJerseyChessMom and @ignatius' observations, note the first sentence:
    Sarah Perry’s new novel The Essex Serpent is a thing of beauty inside and out. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned a book’s cover in a review before, but Peter Dyer’s William Morris-inspired design is stunning, a tantalizing taste of the equally sumptuous prose that lies within.

    Also, here's a more detailed, interesting review from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jun/16/the-essex-serpent-sarah-perry-review-novel

    ^ Worth clicking on the link if only to see the 1669 woodcut: "The Flying Serpent or Strange News Out of Essex." Sarah Perry roots her tale in legend. Here's her own account: http://blogs.bl.uk/living-knowledge/2016/08/on-the-trail-of-the-essex-serpent.html
  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 29,462 Senior Member
    That first review mentions Arnold's Dover Beach, my favorite poem. I love it so much I'm going to subject all of you to it:
    Dover Beach

    By Matthew Arnold

    The sea is calm tonight.
    The tide is full, the moon lies fair
    Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
    Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
    Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
    Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
    Only, from the long line of spray
    Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
    Listen! you hear the grating roar
    Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
    At their return, up the high strand,
    Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
    With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
    The eternal note of sadness in.

    Sophocles long ago
    Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought
    Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
    Of human misery; we
    Find also in the sound a thought,
    Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

    The Sea of Faith
    Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
    Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
    But now I only hear
    Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
    Retreating, to the breath
    Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
    And naked shingles of the world.

    Ah, love, let us be true
    To one another! for the world, which seems
    To lie before us like a land of dreams,
    So various, so beautiful, so new,
    Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
    Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
    And we are here as on a darkling plain
    Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
    Where ignorant armies clash by night.
  • Mary13Mary13 Registered User Posts: 3,495 Senior Member
    Thanks, @mathmom. The last stanza really hit home for me. It's how I've been feeling about the world lately.
  • ignatiusignatius Registered User Posts: 3,087 Senior Member
    When I mention that reviewers mislead with descriptors of The Essex Serpent here's how the Guardian leads into their review: "An Essex village is terrorised by a winged leviathan in a gothic Victorian tale crammed with incident, character and plot." That's what I thought I'd be reading and it wasn't - not really.
  • Mary13Mary13 Registered User Posts: 3,495 Senior Member
    Even though we had a pretty leisurely discussion, I feel like the days have flown by. I can't believe it's October 10th already. We can start thinking about our December choice at any time. As always, the current discussion can continue as long as anyone has anything to say!
  • ignatiusignatius Registered User Posts: 3,087 Senior Member
    Holdovers from past discussions:

    The Strangler Vine - M.J. Carter (Suggested by @mathmom)

    The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley - Hannah Tinti (Almost chosen last go-round)

    My Name Is Lucy Barton and Anything Is Possible - Elizabeth Strout


    New choices:

    The Wanderers - Meg Howrey

    Little Fires - Celeste Ng


    I don't want to be the only one suggesting books!
  • Mary13Mary13 Registered User Posts: 3,495 Senior Member
    My husband just gave me The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott and I haven't read it yet, so that's another possibility.

    Since it will be December, we could also try something with a winter flair: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/dec/24/top-10-winters-in-literature
    https://bookshelffantasies.com/2013/08/12/top-ten-tuesday-top-ten-books-with-a-snowy-setting-brrrr/

    ^Honestly, there is probably not much to consider on either of those lists, but they are fun to look through. How I loved Mrs. Mike as a teen!
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