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The Essex Serpent - October CC Book Club Selection


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

  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 29,714 Senior Member
    I think Cora took care of Francis as much as any upper middle class woman of her era did. It simply wasn't their job In any event, I cannot blame her for not knowing what you do with a kid who doesn't like being hugged and cuddled. I have a kid who is probably very high functioning Asperger's. (Not diagnosed - he had mild Tourettes and very mild OCD according to a neurologist we took him to when he was 9 or 10.) Lots of food and clothing issues. In the end he seemed to be on the normal end of the spectrum - but he's still a bit eccentric. He's been employed in his dream job for the last three years. I found it a little hard to believe that Francis would be happier at a British public (private) school than with his family, but maybe he would like the order and structure if he wasn't bullied.
  • ignatiusignatius Registered User Posts: 3,125 Senior Member
    I love how Francis and Stella connect at the end - understand and accept each other. That connection between them moves Francis to run to Cora for help. Compare that to the almost clinical detachment that Francis feels for Crackwell at the end; Crackwell implores Francis to run for help and he doesn't - doesn't see the need.

    (Francis and Stella are two of my favorite characters - among more than a few others - just not Cora or Will.)

    And though Cora questions her bond with her son, Francis runs to her for help and she handles him well.
  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 29,714 Senior Member
    Yes, that was a lovely moment. Francis is eccentric, but he does seem capable of connecting with people.
  • psychmompsychmom Registered User Posts: 1,783 Senior Member
    edited October 2
    I also enjoyed the Francis/Stella connection - their heightened sensitivities made it seem believable. I didn’t get the Martha/Joanna pairing - that seemed contrived. There were so many pairings and unpairings in this novel - some worked better than others.
  • Mary13Mary13 Registered User Posts: 3,545 Senior Member
    I thought Stella was fascinating. I loved the fact that she feels no jealousy over Will's relationship with Cora, even as she sees them become closer and closer:
    Stella, passing the open door, smiles, pleased and indulgent: she herself is attended so warmly by so many companions it pleases her to see her husband fitted up with so suitable a friend (p. 181).

    Later, the author writes that Stella has never in her life felt envy, and is unable to imagine what it is like. I found that refreshing -- it would have been easy to take a more traditional route and create some kind of nasty love triangle.
  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 29,714 Senior Member
    There was remarkably little jealousy on anyone's part. Spencer is sad that his love is unrequited, but I think part of him is okay given the class differences.

    There's an interesting map the author made of Aldwinter here: https://serpentstail.com/blog/cat/news/post/sarah-perry-the-essex-serpent-location-aldwinter/
  • ignatiusignatius Registered User Posts: 3,125 Senior Member
  • Mary13Mary13 Registered User Posts: 3,545 Senior Member
    ^ Those aerial views of the salt marshes are amazing. The visual really makes it clear why Joanna so fearfully and delicately navigated the saltings with Naomi, on the night they found the broken ship (p. 395-96).
  • ignatiusignatius Registered User Posts: 3,125 Senior Member
  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 29,714 Senior Member
    That is impressive! Even more complicated than the area where Arthur Ransome's Secret Water was set. (Ransome's Swallow and Amazon books are probably my favorite set of kids books - in this particular one the kids are dropped off on an island Island a little bit (30 miles) up the coast from where this book is set to map the area.It was shocking to discover when Google Earth came out that it was all there.)
  • Mary13Mary13 Registered User Posts: 3,545 Senior Member
    Will's last name is Ransome. Is that a nod to Swallows and Amazons?
  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 29,714 Senior Member
    It might be, they are definitely classics in England and get reissued regularly. They came out with nice trade paperbacks when my kids were young - she's about 10 years older than my oldest.

    To question two, I don't remember that quote, but I think Cora's main trait is her honesty. Honesty about who she wants to be and what she says. (Hence the letter to Luke.) It's a generally a good trait, but as we see, it can backfire.
  • Mary13Mary13 Registered User Posts: 3,545 Senior Member
    Cora's character also comes into play in question #7, at least as it pertains to her relationship with Stella:
    7. Cora’s physical size and mannish habits of dress are frequently commented upon by other characters in the novel. She rejects a lot of society’s expectations of her as a woman, whereas Stella Ransome is the living embodiment of the perfect housewife. Despite their differences, they are friends. What do you think Perry is trying to tell us by having Cora save her rival instead of quietly letting her drown?

    That’s an odd question. Never for an instant would Cora have quietly let Stella drown! Or anyone else for that matter. And I honestly don’t think Stella and Cora view each other as rivals.

    I think that passage merely reinforces what we already know — that these characters, despite their conflicts and differences, love each other and are kind and compassionate. And that includes the good people of Aldwinter — a cheerful congregation: “Let us now with gladsome mind, they sing, willing kindness on their neighbors.” I like the fact that this kindness extends to Will. They see how he has been tempted, but are understanding:
    He’s indulged now as he never was before: they talk still of the London woman who not so long ago seemed always at his door; they know how he cradled his wife on the marsh. They see tarnish on him, and it makes him precious: he’s not steel, he’s silver (p. 414).

    Re Stella, I think that as she gradually approaches death, she becomes more ethereal, more unreal. Her near-death scene reminded me of Tennyson’s poem “The Lady of Shalott.” Compare Stella, blue with cold, with the others on shore looking at her and her mysterious blue notebook to Tennyson’s heroine in the boat: “A pale, pale corpse she floated by…They cross’d themselves, their stars they blest / Knight, minstrel, abbot, squire, and guest. / There lay a parchment on her breast, / That puzzled more than all the rest.”

    A picture says a thousand words and is a whole lot shorter than the poem — this Victorian painting was that scene to me: https://c1.staticflickr.com/4/3623/5795470111_9720e79e9f_b.jpg

  • CaraidCaraid Registered User Posts: 293 Junior Member
    I enjoyed the book. I found Cora an interesting character. We mention perhaps Francis is on the autistic spectrum, but how about Cora? In some ways her behavior is similar to Francis' behavior. What was she like before her marriage to Michael? Being in an abusive relationship obviously shapes her personality, but how much of what she is like was her personality before the abuse?
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