‘Deliciously dark’ is probably how someone much more important than me has described this book, but it is a very good description. Perry’s depiction of Melmoth, a woman fated to walk the earth witnessing man’s atrocities is fantastically gothic and unsettling. I now have a picture of Melmoth in my mind that is not going to leave me. She is that shadow you seen out of the corner of your eye in a dark room. Perry writes characters that intrigue and pull you into their stories, whilst maintaining a permanent feeling of unease.
The start of the book is excellent and you really feel that you are floating through the city following Helen, experiencing and seeing the city and its inhabitants with her. Perry’s depiction of Prague is extremely atmospheric and although I have never been, I could imagine it clearly from her descriptions. I was so pleased she managed to maintain this throughout the book. Every time we were told to ‘Look‘, I felt as if we were being placed in the position of witness and these descriptions of the city and its people were perfect. And who wouldn’t love Melmoth’s creepy catchphrase and the threat it holds.
Apart from this being a beautifully written story it really does have a lot to say and made me think about how we believe we are doing a good deed but that is not always how it appears to others, or we do not pay attention to our actions thereby not seeing the harm they cause.
I am going to put my head on the line here and say I think this is better than The Essex Serpent and we all know how popular that was. I also have After Me Comes the Flood (Perry’s first novel) on the ‘to be read’ shelf; it might have to come down from there very soon.
I also couldn’t resist a lovely new edition of the original Melmoth the Wanderer 1820 by Charles Robert Maturin, with an introduction by Sarah Perry and will hopefully get round to it soon. Now I want to read Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss before I go to hear Perry and Moss talk about their books at the end of November at a Cambridge Literary Festival event. Should be a good night.