Melmoth by Sarah Perry
Sarah Perry’s novel explores the themes of guilt and loneliness.
There is a mythical being called Melmoth; a woman with bloody feet who stalks and terrifies guilty souls, waiting for her opportunity to offer them an escape from their eternal punishment to join her torment. Melmoth is a woman that witnessed Jesus’ resurrection but later denies it, as a result, she is condemned to eternally wander through life desperate for connection. Sounds like a brilliant plot right? Well…
I was looking forward to reading this book, as The Essex Serpent has received many raving reviews. However, when it came down to it, Melmoth just was not to my taste. Sarah Perry is praised for her descriptive language and use of detail, which unfortunately, in this book, was to its detriment. The first quarter of the book was very slow and I struggled to engage with the story because of it.
The book begins as a collection of sources by a Czech researcher. His collection of work is then passed on to our most interesting character Helen Franklin. The “yellow file” is a collection of witness statements about horrific events spanning between the 16th century and World War II. It is a collection of moments that Melmoth witnessed and it portrays the people involved as unredeemable. Perry uses these cases to guide the reader to contemplate how could these people could “atone” for their “sins”? Then we have Helen.
Each of these horrific stories are a build up to the unassuming Miss Franklin. A simple woman that refuses any luxury or pleasure in life, punishing herself for a crime that she committed long ago. Helen’s story is well written, it is entrancing and is morally perplexing. I was left deliberating this woman’s judgement; what punishment does deserve, if any? In comparison to the stories before her, is Helen’s “sin” not an act of compassion?
I thoroughly enjoyed the premise of this book and believe that it can make a stunning story. I am just underwhelmed by the execution. I feel like a certain, more patient audience would enjoy this.
Until next time.
20 books for 2020
- Philip Pullman – The Subtle Knife
- Patrick Ness – A Monster Calls
- Barney Norris – Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain
- Shirley Jackson – Life Among the Savages
- Madeline Miller – Circe
- Jenni Murray – A history of Britain in 21 Women
- Chris Kraus – I Love Dick
- Carrie Hope Fletcher – All that she can see
- Kathrine Arden – The Bear and the Nightingale
- William Golding –The Lord of the Flies
- E. M. Forster – Maurice
- Philip Pullman – The Amber Spyglass
- Alice Walker – The Colour Purple
- Zadie Smith – On Beauty
- Jennifer Worth – In the Midst of Life
- Tim Winton – The Turning
- Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale
- Erin Morgenstern – The Night Circus
- Matt Haig – How to Stop Time
- Brandon Sanderson – Skyward
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