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Literary Glance: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

July 11, 2017

Man, I hope my wife reads this novel!

The book is The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry, and the opening scene is in London.   This is important because my wife wants to go to London for vacation, but I don’t.  I have nothing against London.  It’s just that we live in the United States so a London vacation would be really, really expensive, and I’m trying to keep costs down.  A London vacation would be better in a few years after our two daughters have moved out and it would just be for two of us, not four.

Plus, my wife prefers bright, sunny locations, beaches with an occasional mountain just for the fun of it.  I’m not sure London fits that.  London has many fine qualities, but it’s not known for sunny beaches.  I could be wrong.  Maybe I’ve been misled.  And this description from Chapter 1 seems to support my view:

One o’clock on a dreary day and the time ball dropped at the Greenwich Observatory.  There was ice on the prime meridian, and ice on the rigging of the broad-beamed barges down on the busy Thames.  Skippers marked the time and tide, and set their oxblood sails against the northeast wind; a freight of iron was bound for Whitechapel foundry, where bells tolled fifty against the anvil as if time was running out.  Time was being served behind the walls of Newgate jail, and wasted by philosophers in cafes on the Strand; it was lost by those who wished the past present.  Oranges and lemons rang the chimes of St. Clements, and Westminster’s division bell was dumb.

Dreary?  Ice?  Barges on the river?  My family can see all that where we live for free.  Maybe not the ice, at least not right now.  But my wife definitely doesn’t want to pay a lot of money to see dreary stuff.  Maybe London is dreary only on a bad day, but it isn’t known for being sunny and bright.  So if reading this book keeps my wife from planning a London vacation, I’m all for it.

If the previous paragraph doesn’t dissuade her, there’s more:

At Euston Square and Paddington the Underground stations received their passengers, who poured in like so much raw material going down to be milled and processed and turned out of molds.  In a circle Line Carriage, westbound, fitful lights showed The Times had nothing happy to report, and in the aisle a bag spilled damaged fruit.  There was the scent of rain on raincoats, and among the passengers, sunk in his upturned collar, Dr. Luke Garrett was reciting the parts of the human heart.

As much as I appreciate the author’s skill, this probably doesn’t belong in a travel brochure.  Which is why my wife should read this book.

Plus, my wife might actually enjoy The Essex Serpent, and that is important because I should take my wife’s feelings into consideration.  This book seems to have a sympathetic female character, and my wife likes stories with sympathetic female characters.  She watches a lot of television and movies about sympathetic female characters, so she’d probably like this.  She’d rather read about sympathetic female characters than antiheroes who act like jerks when they’re not saving the world.

Also, The Essex Serpent has a cool cover.  That can’t be said about many books.  And the novel itself seems to be well-written, and that doesn’t always happen nowadays either.  Being well-written should be important for an award-winning novel, like The Essex Serpent.

The best part, though, is that my wife probably won’t want to go to London after reading this book.  She might want to go to Essex instead of London, though.  That would probably be too expensive for us too.  But at least I’d be able to read a good book about it along the way.

2 Comments
  1. Ha, ha, ha. I just received this book, and am excited to read it.

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