Books Like The Essex Serpent

Books Like The Essex Serpent

Designed by Michael Stillwell

Adapting a best-selling book into a movie or TV show could easily turn out to be a hit or a miss, but Apple TV+ seems to have nailed making Sarah Perry’s best-selling novel The Essex Serpent into a series. Set in Victorian England, the gothic storyline follows London widow Cora Seaborne (played by Claire Danes) who moves to Essex to investigate reports of a mythical serpent. There, the protagonist meets the village pastor, Will Ransome (played by Tom Hiddleston), and the two find themselves entangled in an emotional affair. But when tragedy strikes, things take a turn, and locals accuse Cora of attracting the sea creature.

If you’ve read Perry’s book already or have started to watch the new series, and love the plot and characters, you’ve come to the right place. With summer just around the corner, there’s no better time to load up on page-turners to read at the beach. Here, the best gothic books to sink your teeth into if you couldn’t get enough of The Essex Serpent.

WATCH THE ESSEX SERPENT ON APPLE TV+

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1

After Me Comes the Flood: A Novel

fans of The Essex Serpent will also love Perry’s debut novel, After Me Comes the Flood. The story follows London bookshop owner John Cole, who finds himself at a dilapidated house after his car breaks down on the side of an isolated road. As he steps closer, a laughing woman he’s never met addresses him by his name and reveals she’s been waiting for him. Upon entering the home, John meets a mysterious group of residents, all of whom also claim to know who he is and that they’ve been awaiting his arrival.

So by Perry, Melmoth is loosely based on the 1820 gothic book Melmoth the Wanderer by Irish playwright Charles Maturin. In Perry’s version, Helen Franklin—an English translator living in Prague—is given a manuscript describing encounters with Melmoth the Witness, a mysterious dark-robed woman who is doomed to wander the earth, witnessing atrocities in humanity, after seeing Christ’s resurrection and denying it. As the story progresses, Helen begins to become aware that Melmoth might be following her and she is forced to, quite literally, face her demons.

3

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock: A Novel

Thorndike Press Large Print

Bookworms won’t get enough of Imogen Hermes Gowar’s historical novel about Jonah Hancock—a prosperous merchant in 1780s London—whose life gets upended when he unexpectedly receives a dead mermaid. Not long after, Hancock finds himself in high society and meets Angelica Neal, a famous courtesan with whom he forms an unconventional romance. But as the plot thickens, the two face great obstacles in their love story, perhaps because of the mermaid’s power.

4

The Miniaturist: A Novel

Jessie Burton’s 2015 based-on-a-true-story novel is sure to fill your gaping Essex Serpent-sized hole in your summer reading list. Set in 17th century Amsterdam, The Miniaturist follows 18-year-old Nella Oortman whose world turns upside down after her new, distant husband, Johannes Brandt, gifts her with a cabinet-sized replica of their home. As Nella begins furnishing the gift—with the help of a miniaturist—she begins to uncover unusual secrets about her husband’s family and the dangers that await them.

5

Remarkable Creatures: A Novel

If you appreciated the paleontology aspect in The Essex Serpentyou’re going to love Remarkable Creatures. Based on real-life events and people, Tracy Chevalier’s novel takes place in 19th century England and tells the story of uneducated Mary Anning who uncovers an unusual fossilized skeleton, which rattles the scientific community. When she befriends middle-class Elizabeth Philpot, who has her own passion for fossils, the two forms of an unlikely bond and face a series of obstacles, including sexism in a male-dominated society and long-held religious beliefs about extinction.

From the same author of The Miniaturist, the muse jumps back and forth between the 1930s in Spain and the 1960s in London and is about an unusual painting that surfaces at a gallery. Throughout the story, Trinidadian Odelle Bastien, a typist who works at the said gallery, sets herself on a mission to learn more about the piece of art and delves into the mystery of where it came from, who painted it, and what ultimately happened to him.

7

Once Upon a River: A Novel

Atria/Emily Bestler Books

Once Upon a River is another great read if you were a fan of The Essex Serpent. On a dark winter’s night near the river Thames, an injured man staggers through an ancient inn with an unresponsive girl in his arms. Only later does the girl suddenly return to life, but is wordless, leading the locals to try to solve the mystery of who she belongs to. But when three families come forward to claim her as their daughter, things get complicated and secrets of their own begin to unravel.

8th

The Silent Companions: A Novel

set in victorian england, The Silent Companions follows pregnant and newly-widowed Else Bainbridge as she tries to navigate her life on her late husband’s crumbling estate. But while exploring the home, she finds old diaries and a silent companion, which is a painted wooden figure that looks very much like herself. Though residents of the estate are terrified of the figure, Elsie is determined to find out more about its origins, and along the way, learns of a series of shocking family secrets.

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