9 Mar 2020


ISBN 978-1781255452

London, 1893. When Cora Seaborne's controlling husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness.
Retreating to the countryside with her son, she encounters rumours of the 'Essex Serpent', a creature of folklore said to have returned to the marshes.

Cora is enthralled, believing it may be an undiscovered species. Setting on its trail, she collides with local minister William Ransome, who thinks the cure for hysteria lies in faith, while Cora is convinced that science offers the answers. Despite disagreeing on everything, he and Cora find themselves drawn together,  changing each other's lives in unexpected ways ...
- Back Cover Blurb

A young man walks down by the banks of the Blackwater under the full cold moon.
- First Sentence

The wings, Cora conceded, laughing, were a little sinister, looking as if a bat had mated forcibly with a sparrow, and shadows passing over the grinning face gave it the appearance of blinking, but really it was hardly a signifier of the occult. It had endured two hundred years' fondling from affectionate congregants, and its spine was worn smooth.
- Memorable Moment, Page 125

MY THOUGHTS ... I've had so many people recommend this as a book I'd not just enjoy but love that I wanted, really wanted to like it and yet, if I were to sum it up in one word that word would be mediocre. Actually lets make that four words, mediocre and oddly soulless.

Set in the Victorian era. Hmm! I'm afraid I just wasn't convinced. The fashions/costumes aside there was very little to tie the novel to that time. That the book featured characters with relatively contemporary mindsets; Cora who defies the conventions of the era, indulging in her passion for science, her companion, a  bi-sexual (I'm sorry I forget her name that's how unmemorable these characters are) who's passionate about socialism and housing reforms, whilst it can work, didn't in this instance.

OK so a story of love and friendship in Victorian England, I get that but the back cover blurb also  promised a clash between superstition and rational as evidenced by the coming together of Will, a minister who believed the cure for hysteria was faith and Cora, a woman who is convinced that science offered the answer ... and a serpent.

Given that none of the characters held my attention - that the author had a habit of jumping from one to character to another so rapidly that for the main part I never felt as if I really and truly got into any of their 'heads' didn't make it easy - I guess I was hoping that these aspects of the story would at least be some kind of compensation and yet in actuality there was very little of the former and even less of the serpent who as it turns out ... Ah that would be a spoiler.

Full of pent up longing and unrequited love (both heterosexual and homosexual), chaste. Until that is there's the bizarre moment in which ... 

Lets just say there is mention of a sexual act. Not that there's anything bizarre about this act in itself you understand, its more that it stood out as bizarre given that, well the rest of the book is so chaste.

Too many subplots; sadly the only one to really capture my imagination (the notion childhood 'hysteria') a mere germ of an idea that alas never came to fruition, in the main however they only acted as what I felt were unnecessary catalysts. That the narrative sometimes took the form of a letter, not something I enjoy at the best of times and here it only seemed to serve in disrupting the overall flow of the novel.

Disheartened by how much I'm struggling to find anything positive to say about this novel ...  

Reminiscent of the wallpaper of the era, I loved the book cover.

SUMMED UP IN A SENTENCE ... I'm beginning to think that the more wonderful reviews inside a book's cover the less likely I am to enjoy it ... and this had a lot of such reviews. 

Image result for name felicity


bermudaonion said...

It sounds like I'll be safe to skip this one.

Kelly said...

A shame this one fell so flat for you. It does have a great cover, though!

Brian Joseph said...

Having characters with contemporary ideas and values in a book set in the past is a real killer for me.

I like the cover.

Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer said...

Bummer. The cover is beautiful and the idea of folklore and myth intrgued me. After reading your review I think i will pass.

DMS said...

Sorry you didn't enjoy this one more. I don't recall hearing of this one before- but sometimes when everyone is loving a book I find I don't feel the same. :)

nightwingsraven said...

I am truly sorry that this book
was such a disappointment to you.
But thank you for your honest and
critical review.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Hi Felicity,

Yours seems to be about the only voice of caution in a sea of positive Goodreads reviews and ratings. However, as always, I admire your honesty and constructive comments. It would never do for us all to like everything we read, or indeed everything that other readers have enjoyed! It is quite often the other way round for me, with me actually enjoying a book which others have not, or have even cast aside as DNF.

I have come across this book on other blogs, however despite the lovely cover art, the premise has never really appealed to me, so I am definitely going to pass on reading it!

Hope your next book is more to your liking :)


sherry fundin said...

i often wonder when something like this happens, if it's because my expectations are so high. other times, i love a book that someone i know hated or dnfed...go figure. :-)
sherry @ fundinmental

Shooting Stars Mag said...

I haven't read this one, but I'm sorry to hear it just didn't work for you. Mediocre is not great - and not caring about the characters is rough too!