Summary and book reviews of Melmoth by Sarah Perry

Melmoth

by Sarah Perry

Melmoth by Sarah Perry X
Melmoth by Sarah Perry
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  • Published:
    Oct 2018, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Meara Conner

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Book Summary

For centuries, the mysterious dark-robed figure has roamed the globe, searching for those whose complicity and cowardice have fed into the rapids of history's darkest waters - and now, in Sarah Perry's breathtaking follow-up to The Essex Serpent, it is heading in our direction.

It has been years since Helen Franklin left England. In Prague, working as a translator, she has found a home of sorts - or, at least, refuge. That changes when her friend Karel discovers a mysterious letter in the library, a strange confession and a curious warning that speaks of Melmoth the Witness, a dark legend found in obscure fairy tales and antique village lore. As such superstition has it, Melmoth travels through the ages, dooming those she persuades to join her to a damnation of timeless, itinerant solitude. To Helen it all seems the stuff of unenlightened fantasy.

But, unaware, as she wanders the cobblestone streets Helen is being watched. And then Karel disappears...

J. A. Hoffman
c/o The National Library of the Czech Republic

December 2016

My dear Dr Pražan –

How deeply I regret that I must put this document in your hands, and so make you the witness to what I have done!


Many times you said to me: 'Josef, what are you writing? What have you been doing all this time?' My friend, I would not tell you, because I have been the watchman at the door. But now my pen is dry, the door is open, and something's waiting there that will turn what small regard you have for me to ruins. I can bear that well enough, since I never deserved your regard - but I am afraid for you, because beyond the threshold only one light shines, and it's far more dreadful than the dark. . .

Ten days have passed and all the while I have been thinking only of my fault, my fault, my most grievous fault! I do not sleep. I feel her eyes on me and with hope and dread I turn, but find I'm all alone! I walk through the city in the dark and think ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Melmoth speaks to humanity's longing for redemption, while keeping its audience constantly on edge; make sure to read this one with the lights on.   (Reviewed by Meara Conner).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Perry's heartbreaking, horrifying monster confronts the characters not just with the uncanny but also with the human: with humanity's complicity in history's darkest moments, its capacity for guilt, its power of witness, and its longing for both companionship and redemption.

Booklist
Starred Review. This is a sobering, disturbing, yet powerful and moving book that cannot fail to impress. The stories-within-stories and the Jewish themes recall Dara Horn's The World to Come (2006) and Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch (2013), although Melmoth presents different kinds of nightmares.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. A chilling novel about confronting our complicity in past atrocities - and retaining the strength and moral courage to strive for the future.

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Beyond the Book

Melmoth the Wanderer: Inspiration for Sarah Perry's Melmoth

Cover of the Penguin Classics edition of <i>Melmoth the Wanderer</i> by Charles Robert Maturin Though the story encapsulated in Sarah Perry's Melmoth is entirely her own, it derives its name and legend from Irish playwright, Charles Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer. Published in 1820, Melmoth the Wanderer follows John Melmoth, a young student in Dublin, as he visits his dying uncle. Upon his arrival, he discovers an old portrait of a mysterious relative simply labeled, "Melmoth." At his uncle's funeral, John inquires about this photo and is given a manuscript transcribed by an old family acquaintance named Stanton, who has collected several dark legends regarding the being he refers to as "...

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