Sarah Perry

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Sarah Perry

Sarah Perry, Writer.jpg
Born (1979-11-28) 28 November 1979 (age 42)
Chelmsford, Essex, England
Alma materRoyal Holloway University, Chelmsford County High School for Girls

Sarah Grace Perry FRSL (born 28 November 1979) is an English author. She has had three novels published, all by Serpent's Tail: After Me Comes the Flood (2014), The Essex Serpent (2016) and Melmoth (2018). Her work has been translated into 22 languages.

Early life and education[edit]

Perry was born in Chelmsford, Essex into a family of devout Christians who were members of a Strict Baptist church. Growing up with almost no access to contemporary art, culture, and writing, she filled her time with classical music, classic novels and poetry, and church-related activities. She says this early immersion in old literature and the King James Bible profoundly influenced her writing style.[1] She attended Chelmsford County High School for Girls.

Perry has a PhD in creative writing from Royal Holloway University where her supervisor was Sir Andrew Motion. Her doctoral thesis was on the Gothic in the writing of Iris Murdoch, and Perry has subsequently published an article on the Gothic in Aeon magazine.[2][3]

I wrote about the power of place in my PhD thesis, particularly the importance of buildings in the Gothic (a genre which I find myself inhabiting without ever having meant to). Fiction in the Gothic inheritance makes much of the potent importance of the interior, from the castle where Jonathan Harker finds himself holed up to Thornfield, and from the suburban homes in Hilary Mantel’s Beyond Black to the ghastly crypts in The Monk.

In 2013 she was a writer in residence at Gladstone's Library.[4]

Perry won the 2004 Shiva Naipaul Memorial prize for travel writing for 'A little unexpected', an article about her experiences in the Philippines.[5][6]

In June 2018 Perry was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in its "40 Under 40" initiative.[7]


After Me Comes the Flood[edit]

Perry's debut novel, After Me Comes the Flood, was released in 2014 by Serpent's Tail, receiving high praise from reviewers including those of The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian.[8] The novel tells the story of a man named John Cole who wanders into a strange world while seeking out his brother amidst a drought. John Burnside, writing for The Guardian, called it "extraordinary" and "a remarkable debut."[9]

The Essex Serpent[edit]

Her second novel, The Essex Serpent, was also published by Serpent's Tail in 2016. Inspired by the myth of a sea-serpent on the Essex coast, it tells the story of a Victorian widow, Cora Seaborne, and the friends who surround her after the death of her bullying husband. Cora is intrigued and compelled by the possibility of the serpent's return, but clashes with the local vicar, William Ransome, who is determined to lay superstition to rest in his rural parish.

The novel is again written in a gothic style, and explores themes of goodness, friendship, superstition and love and once again received positive reviews; John Burnside, quoted on the book's cover, writes: "Had Charles Dickens and Bram Stoker come together to write the great Victorian novel, I wonder if it would have surpassed The Essex Serpent? No way of knowing, but with only her second outing, Sarah Perry establishes herself as one of the finest fiction writers working in Britain today."[10]

The Essex Serpent was nominated in the Novel category for the 2016 Costa Book Awards[11] and was named Waterstones Book Of The Year 2016.[12] It was placed on the long list for the 2017 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction.[13]


Her third novel is titled Melmoth, and was inspired by Charles Maturin's gothic novel Melmoth the Wanderer.[14] It was published by Serpent's Tail in October 2018.[15] Melmoth was shortlisted for the 2019 Dylan Thomas Prize.[16]


  1. ^ Sarah Perry, Reading lessons of a religious upbringing without modern books, The Guardian, 1 July 2014.
  2. ^ A Sublime Contagion
  3. ^ Sarah Perry, The Genesis of 'After Me Comes the Flood', Shiny New Books, 2014.
  4. ^ Gladstone's Library 2013 Writers in Residence
  5. ^ Rowan Mantell, Norfolk author Sarah Perry tipped for stardom with debut novel After Me Comes The Flood, EDP24, 27 June 2014
  6. ^ 'A little unexpected', 2004 Shiva Naipaul prize article, The Spectator (The end of the article seems to be missing.)
  7. ^ Flood, Alison (28 June 2018). "Royal Society of Literature admits 40 new fellows to address historical biases". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  8. ^ Catherine Blyth, After Me Comes the Flood by Sarah Perry, review: 'a dazzling new talent', The Telegraph, 15 July 2014.
  9. ^ John Burnside, After Me Comes the Flood by Sarah Perry review – a remarkable debut, The Guardian, 26 June 2014.
  10. ^ "The Essex Serpent - Serpent's Tail Books". Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  11. ^ Sian Cain, Costa book award 2016 shortlists dominated by female writers, The Guardian, 22 November 2016.
  12. ^ "Waterstones Book of the Year 2020 | Waterstones".
  13. ^ Kean, Danuta (8 March 2017). "Baileys women's prize 2017 longlist sees established names eclipse debuts". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  14. ^ "Sarah Perry reveals 'even more ambitious' next novel | the Bookseller".
  15. ^ "Melmoth - Serpent's Tail Books". Archived from the original on 16 October 2018.
  16. ^ "2019 Dylan Thomas Prize shortlist announced". Books+Publishing. 3 April 2019. Retrieved 3 April 2019.

External links[edit]