The Essex Serpent : The number one bestseller and British Book Awards Book of the Year


From the moment Sarah Perry's second novel fell into our bookselling hands, we all instantly knew this was a title that shared our bookselling DNA. A murder, a monster, a love story and a heroine to rival the greats of 19th century literature collide to make this the most deeply satisfying of fiction. We proudly present The Essex Serpent, the winner of our Waterstones Book of the Year 2016.

Strange News Out of Essex...

The Essex earth had bucked as if trying to shake off all its towns and villages; for twenty seconds, no more, a series of convulsions that paused once as if breath were being drawn and then began again.

Set in 1893 and firmly rooted in the author's home county of Essex, the novel centres on the character of Cora Seaborne, a widow freed from a controlling, unhappy marriage. Retreating to the Essex countryside with her son, she hears the rumours surrounding the so-called 'Essex Serpent', a creature of folklore being blamed for a spate of deaths and disturbances and the cause of escalating panic in the local community. Her ensuing investigations bring her into contact with a clergyman, William Ransome, a man convinced of finding the answer to local hysteria in faith, just as Cora is on finding it in science. Despite their differing opinions, their lives become ever-more enmeshed, finding themselves bound to each other in ways neither could anticipate.

Our The Essex Serpent mural at Waterstones Manchester Deansgate

"The Essex Serpent blazed as the overwhelming choice by our booksellers to be their Book of the Year. It is one of those novels that takes possession of the reader in a physical embrace; to finish it is to feel released, deeply satisfied at every level. It is a treasure and we recommend this wonderful book to everyone." - James Daunt, Managing Director of Waterstones

Also shortlisted for the 2016 Costa Novel Award

Read our Sarah Perry interview on the Waterstones blog.