When I was young, just after I’d been reading the Redwall books, and having devoured Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy, I asked one of my parents for a novel to read.
Reading a novel – particularly on a parent’s recommendation – is a rite of passage for all sorts of families. For me, reading the stories my parents gave me resonated with all sorts of questions and deeper thoughts. So, as a reading child (I literally remember my childhood as interludes between books, of various memory-generation) I was invited into a range of worlds beyond the one I lived in. As a Strict/Grace Baptist (an honour I share with this author) child, I devoured a wide range of books, whilst ultimately loving and celebrating one particular book, the ultimate story.
The Essex Serpent is a book that I’d heard about before it was published, but read after I’d left the publishing industry. I even enjoyed a pint of ‘Essex Serpent’ beer at a bookseller Marketing and Publicity Conference. It is, and was, an excellent story. Touching on issues of class, gender, science and faith, The Essex Serpent follows the life of Cora after her husband, someone involved in government, dies.
The rest of the story remains to be read.
I don’t want to spoil how this story ends – and so my review does also end here.
Thus, as my old geography teacher would say, you should read this book. And attempt to understand it. Because ultimately the places that we do our lives matter. And, similarly, the kinds of relationships we set ourselves as damaged humans in matter. And, at the end of the day, that is exactly what this novel is about. And this is a good story, I hope. A very, very readable novel. The Essex Serpent. And I would recommend it.
As a story, written by someone thoughtful, about a people, some prayers, and a place.
And also as a publishing phenomenon (which I might have accidentally contributed to, but probably not) of a novel meaning something.