In anticipation for reading Melmouth, which has FINALLY become available at my library – I caught up with reading The Essex Serpent. After hearing such good things, I hd high hopes, but I wasn’t disappointed. The Essex Serpent follows new widow Cora Seagrave exploring 1890s Essex to hunt down a creature that has terrorised a small village on the coast. She meets and befriends local rector William Ransome and an inevitable contemporary discourse of science vs. religion ensues. For me, this was the novels strength. These big themes of mythology, religion and Darwinism were addictively told when read from a modern lens.
Historical fiction at its best should read at least semi-accurately reflect the society it portrays and The Essex Serpent does this perfectly – the creature becomes comparably a much lesser part of the story. The Essex Serpent also brilliantly reflects on social issues of 1890s London, with Cora’s socialist friend Martha reciting the ills of wealth disparity and slum housing in inner-city London. If I enjoyed The Essex Serpent this much, I’m looking forward to what Melmouth has to offer.