The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Sarah Perry’s novel is a brilliant evocation of the Victorian age: its preoccupations about science, religion and superstition all find subtle expression in this wonderfully gothic tale of a young widow with an interest in archaeology, who is drawn to the Essex coast by tales of a winged serpent that is terrorizing the locals. It has all the ingredients of a gripping read: she meets and falls for the local parish priest, whose wife is dying from consumption and Perry sustains different tensions within her work: between love and duty, faith and science, the sophisticated city and the more susceptible countryside. Her research is first rate, but the book wears its erudition lightly – an intriguing and utterly beguiling story.