A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Monday, July 13, 2020

Melmoth by Sarah Perry- Feature and Review


Twenty years ago Helen Franklin did something she cannot forgive herself for, and she has spent every day since barricading herself against its memory. But the sheltered life she has crafted for herself is about to change.

A strange manuscript has come into her possession, and its contents have the power to unravel every strand of her fragile safety net. It is filled with testimonies from the darkest chapters of human history, which all record sightings of a tall, silent woman in black, with unblinking eyes and bleeding feet: Melmoth, the loneliest being in the world. Condemned to walk the Earth forever, she tries to beguile the guilty and lure them away for a lifetime wandering alongside her.

Everyone that Melmoth seeks out must make a choice: to live with what they've done, or be lead into the darkness. Despite her scepticism, Helen can't stop reading, or shake the feeling that someone or something is watching her. As her past finally catches up with her, she too must choose which path to take.

Exquisitely written, and gripping until the very last page, this is a masterpiece of moral complexity, asking us profound questions about mercy, redemption, and how to make the best of our conflicted world.



MelmothMelmoth by Sarah Perry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Melmoth by Sarah Perry is a 2018 Serpent’s Tale publication.

I have not read ‘The Essex Serpent’ so I had no preset expectations for this book. The main draw for me was the advertised Gothic tone. The book delivers on that front, in spades! The folklore is exquisitely utilized in this crackling good tale of horror and suspense.

Melmoth is a legendary figure said to have witnessed Christ’s resurrection, but then later denied the truth of what she saw. As such, she is now doomed to wander the earth in eternal loneliness, witnessing the dark deeds of humanity. Misery loves company, so Melmoth offers her hand to those at the crux of their darkest moments of despair, imploring them to join her.

Helen Franklin, is an unassuming woman in her forties, working as a translator in Prague. Suddenly, her friend, Karel, hands her a manuscript describing encounters with Melmoth the Witness. The he suddenly disappears, and Helen begins to feel as though she’s being watched.

As the story progresses, it becomes clear that our humble Helen Franklin is hiding a dark secret as she finds herself drawn into the fantastical tales of lore contained in the manuscript.

Oh, my goodness! What a deep, heavy, atmospheric story!! This book is supposed to be based, at least in part, on the 1820 Irish Gothic novel ‘Melmoth the Wanderer’ written by Charles Maturin. I am only slightly familiar with the premise of that book, so obviously, it is not necessary to have read it in order to enjoy this book- although I am very interested in reading it someday.

This is the type of story I can get lost in. It is a very creepy story that continually kept my nerves on edge. The setting and scenery couldn’t have been created a better atmosphere. The spine-tingling horror is delicious, but there is also an exploration of profound topics. The story is about seeing, witnessing and about accountability and redemption, with a conclusion that will knock your socks off.

The writing is superb, capping off this finely layered deliciously chilling story!!






Sarah Perry was born in Essex in 1979, and was raised as a Strict Baptist. Having studied English at Anglia Ruskin University she worked as a civil servant before studying for an MA in Creative Writing and a PhD in Creative Writing and the Gothic at Royal Holloway, University of London. In 2004 she won the Spectator's Shiva Naipaul Award for travel writing.

In January 2013 she was Writer-in-Residence at Gladstone's Library. Here she completed the final draft of her first novel, After Me Comes the Flood , which was published by Serpent's Tail in June 2014 to international critical acclaim. It won the East Anglian Book of the Year Award 2014, and was longlisted for the 2014 Guardian First Book Award and nominated for the 2014 Folio Prize. In January and February 2016 Sarah was the UNESCO City of Literature Writer-in-Residence in Prague.

Her second novel, The Essex Serpent , was published by Serpent's Tail in May 2016. It was a number one bestseller in hardback, and was named Waterstones Book of the Year 2016. It was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2017, and was longlisted for the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction 2017, the Wellcome Book Prize, the International Dylan Thomas Prize, and the New Angle Prize for Literature. It was broadcast on Radio 4 as a Book at Bedtime in April 2017, is being translated into eleven languages, and has been chosen for the Richard and Judy Summer Book Club 2017.

Sarah has spoken at a number of institutions including Gladstone's Library, the Centre of Theological Inquiry at Princeton, and the Anglo-American University in Prague, on subjects including theology, the history and status of friendship in literature, the Gothic, and Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Her essays have been published in the Guardian and the Spectator, and broadcast on BBC Radio 4.  She reviews fiction for the Guardian and the Financial Times.

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