Over Christmas I was indulged with a few titles from my reading wish list and The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry was the first to be finished. No. 5 of the Top 10 Folk Tales in Fiction Guardian article The Essex Serpent was a curious read. Illuminating about the period in which it was set and quite tense in places as the folklore of the Essex serpent grips the community in different ways. It is not fantasy fiction and but I would happily recommend it.
"London, 1893. When Cora Seaborne's controlling husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness. Along with her son Francis - a curious, obsessive boy - she leaves town for Essex, in the hope that fresh air and open space will provide refuge.
On arrival, rumours reach them that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming lives, has returned to the coastal parish of Aldwinter. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist with no patience for superstition, is enthralled, convinced that what the local people think is a magical beast may be a yet-undiscovered species. As she sets out on its trail, she is introduced to William Ransome, Aldwinter's vicar, who is also deeply suspicious of the rumours, but thinks they are a distraction from true faith.
As he tries to calm his parishioners, Will and Cora strike up an intense relationship, and although they agree on absolutely nothing, they find themselves at once drawn together and torn apart, affecting each other in ways that surprise them both.
The Essex Serpent is a celebration of love, and the many different shapes it can take." Book Description from the Guardian Book Shop
I really enjoyed Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. I read this through some of the hottest days in January when activity seemed impossible. A really gripping end of the world science fiction.
A writer of dazzling genius and imaginative vision, Neal Stephenson combines science, philosophy, technology, psychology, and literature in a magnificent work of speculative fiction that offers a portrait of a future that is both extraordinary and eerily recognizable." -Goodreads
Currently I am re-reading an old favourite, as I can dip in and out of it when I need a bit of down-time from multiple projects. Here's a review I put up on Goodreads. P.s this is fantasy fiction!
ON MAPS AND MERMAIDS
A recent re-read, and in-between my first teenage reading in 1996 there have been many other repeat readings. 'Lines upon the skin' is an absolute favourite of mine, a book I turn to for a comfort read and I have even become a little fond of the cover, which had initially put me off (when I was 17) with its pastel painted frolicking mermaids. The most recent release with the map and compass is much more appealing. I enjoy all the cartography details and plot wise it's a perfect reason for the group to be travelling rather than the 'ideal quest' trope, it seems much more everyday and is much more relatable as a teenager and also to my adult self.
In the world of 'Lines upon the skin' the female pronoun is used as the norm which was a surprise to me as a 90's teen but I think it very quickly created a different world, one I really wanted to be in. In fact like Nicola says very well in her review, that this is a culture where one's sexuality and race are points of interest rather than the basis for discrimination. Tirayi is not a perfect world, there is war and slavery in some parts BUT there is equal opportunity in gender and race whether you want to be a Cartographer, Ruler, Soldier or Evil priest.
ADVENTURE AND ROMANCE
As a teenager I was so envious of Ashil and her friends, cartography sounded like the perfect job, traveling around the world, meeting new people and visiting fascinating places but perhaps the maths and geometry aspect would have not really been my cup of tea. There is plenty of action, a little philosophical discussion, character development, and enough friendship and love for an engaging story.
My older self is much more critical of some of the writing and plot but I still love to read it.