Sarah Perry has done it again! She’s the writer of the very popular ‘The Essex Serpent’, and this book was one of my most anticipated releases of the year. I have a lot of feelings for this book. It’s one of those that makes you think about the writer, because you’re in awe of what they’re capable of. So, I’ll start from there. Regardless of what she’s writing, Sarah Perry has a very unique style: Creatively constructed sentences, metaphors, and OH MY…those expressions of pure human emotions…I have no idea how she’s doing it. When I looked up her background, I was not surprised. She was born into a conservative Christian family, not having access to contemporary art, novels, etc. Rather, she was spending a lot of time with classic poetry, novels & music. She says, this shaped her writing style a lot. Then, it made sense to me 🙂 The sophistication, elegance and somehow the smell of history is seeping through Perry’s pages, and I LOVE it.
The story is set in Prague at contemporary times, though it has an 18th Century gothic feel to it. It’s definitely scary at times and often I found myself holding my breath! The book is written in forms of letters, diary entries and with a narrative. Present times written like a Victorian gothic novel in different shape or forms is a proof of Perry’s undeniable craftsmanship, and uniqueness.
“Melmoth, or Melmotte, or Melmotka; ponders a woman questioned by men, and refusing them; ponders the justice of the sentence meted out. It is easy enough to summon up this watcher, this witness: to imagine, say, a hag, black-clad, stooped, unblinking, blateful; to summon up also the pricking sensation of an implacable eye fixed on a bare neck. She finds herself unwilling to raise her head to the window, as if she might see beyond the glass a face with an expression of loneliness so imploring as to be cruel…
…She is watching! he says; and at the nape of Helen’s neck the hairs lift.”
Helen Franklin is an English translator, who ended up in Prague with her mysterious past and very guilty heart. She comes across a mysterious file, containing letters and diary entries from different periods of history. All people in these stories share a common theme: Guilt, redemption and exile. And Melmoth the Witness, is following them. Who is she? Is she real? Why is she following these people?
Melmoth is a dark read with its very much flawed characters. I can’t guarantee you’ll like them, but I can guarantee it will make you think a lot and it will make you question yourself. In my opinion, the novel reaches its climax when Helen’s story was revealed. It was so emotional, so well written, almost UNFORGETTABLE. I will think about it for long time to come.
And, here comes my BUT for the book and hence 4 stars. I loved the book and the beautiful writing, there’s no doubt to it. However, the last part after we learn about Helen’s story felt a bit forced at the last minute. Because Helen’s story was so impactful, and the core mystery of the book, reading something completely different after that point threw me off. I wish the closure was there, then it would be a perfect book for me.
Regardless, Melmoth is literary fiction at its best, and Sarah Perry is the REAL DEAL. I would read her books any day.
I will never forget about Helen’s story
I will never forget how it’s told.
I will never forget about Melmoth.
And I will never forget about the human emotion dripping off the pages of this book…
“Oh my friend, my darling. Won’t you take my hand? I’ve been so lonely…”
Thanks so much to Serpent’s Tail publishers for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
If you’re a literary fiction lover, you MUST read it. Thanks so much for stopping by and happy reading!