November 2017 Club

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

A twisting, turning tale that slides from 1890s Essex to London and back again, The Essex Serpent tells of strange goings-on in the backwater of Aldwinter. Set on a fog-ridden estuary, newly widowed Cora Seagrave, a keen amateur paleontologist, comes to live in the superstitious Blackwater community with her autistic son, Francis, and socialist companion, Martha.

Although a woman of some wealth, Cora prefers to dress in men’s clothes to wander over the landscape in search of scientific treasures. On one of her outings, she encounters Reverend William Ransome with whom she establishes a deep, intellectual friendship which develops into an unspoken attraction, despite his marriage to his beautiful Stella who is afflicted with consumption and bed-bound for much of the time.

Rumours abound of a creature living in the waters – a winged dragon-serpent with a beak – and several unexplained deaths and disappearances add flesh to the hearsay. People hang horseshoes from Traitor’s Oak, skinned moles around their properties for protection and children are encouraged to be in before dark and to not play by the water’s edge.

Themes of religion versus science, improvement of slum housing conditions in London, forbidden love and martyrdom to save the community are all in play in this novel which paints an intense picture of character and place. 

Colourway inspiration

The semi-solid colourway is named World’s End. I couldn’t resist given that SQ HQ is located in a village of the same name and there’s a certain eerie foreboding to the name that also features centrally in the novel. I wanted to convey a serpentine feel to the colourway yet incorporate Stella’s obsession with blue. So I started with an electric blue for the first layer of dye, added black for the second coat and a green-teal for the third glaze. The overall effect is a tonal semi-solid.

The variegated colourway is called Saltmarshes. On a base of eau de nil, I added eight colours in total to convey the landscape in the novel. A grey-taupe shell for the oystermen, sand, oxblood for the sails, green-teal and electric blue to blend with the semi-solid, grey, moss and finished with black for the barren trees and general Gothic feel.

What else could the yarn base be other than Wriggle?