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[Perspectives] Instinct versus science

The Essex Serpent is Sarah Perry’s second novel and it is doing very well indeed. A plot summary sounds both worthy and complicated, but the reason for its success is plain within a few pages: it is great fun. Perry is playing with and rejoicing in her neo-Victorian Gothic, teasing the reader with a monster that can’t really (can it?) be creeping out of the dark water to terrorise an Essex village where the inhabitants are still open to medieval ideas about sin and supernatural beings while down-from-London visitors have digested Charles Darwin and are moving towards the ideas of Sigmund Freud.