Melmoth is a ghostly, nightmarish, folk tale figure who supposedly steals away people who have done wrong In the course of the book we meet a number of these wrong doers and hear their stories until finally it is the turn of the main character, Helen What happens to her is unexpected and there is a neat little twist at the end.
All good yet not quite totally fulfilling I think for me the supposed Gothic horror was not really scary enough, Melmoth did not make much of an impact and Helen was basically not a nice person So I am sitting on the fence with three stars a good book which could have been better.
I wonder, when God permitted us to fall, if He knew we d fall so far Helen Franklin is an English woman living in Prague She has made a home for herself and has a small group of friends One evening her friend, Karel, shows her a letter he discovered in a library The letter is a confession of sorts and introduces the reader to Melmoth the Witness, a woman who roams the globe in loneliness, looking for those who have done wrong asking them to join her in damnation She is an interesting figure, her story handed down over the years Is she real Is she a myth A story to keep children in line Is she a cautionary tale, a piece of folklore, or a woman from biblical times cursed to walk the earth Gothic in nature and shrouded in mystery this book didn t quite hit the mark with me What worked was the beautiful writing I enjoyed the letters and journal entries about Melmoth Melmotka, Melmat I thought they were brilliant Melmoth is shown throughout time in this fashion This book, specifically Helen s story line takes places primarily in modern times but has an older feel to it Speaking of Helen, I really didn t care for her or her friends all that much This book is getting mixed reviews and I feel that I am in the middle of those I can say that I liked this book but didn t love it I was hoping for a littlecreepiness and a littleGothic horror This book has atmosphere and I give it props for that Even though most of this book takes place in the twenty first century, it does feel as if it takes places in the past She sets the stage for the atmospheric Gothic vibe I wantedof Melmoth and her story But Perry keeps her shrouded in mystery which I believe was intentional as I believe she wanted readers to ask questions and decide for themselves Again, I can t fault the writing, I just wanted .
I would encourage readers to decide for themselves read the other reviewsThank you to Harper Collins and Edelweiss who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review All the thoughts and opinions are my own.
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com 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 DirectionIt 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 FantasyBut, Unaware, As She Wanders The Cobblestone Streets Helen Is Being Watched And Then Karel Disappears 5 original, stand out stars to Melmoth Although Melmoth is set in the present, it has a dark, foreboding Gothic feel, not unlike an 18th century work Set in Prague, we meet Helen Franklin, an English translator with a mysterious past She carries tremendous guilt with her Helen s friend Karel finds a file holding letters from different periods of time There are common themes of guilt within all these entries There is a warning, too Melmoth the Witness travels through time to observe everyone s guilt But what does she do with it Does she hurt, or does she help Or does she do nothing at all Helen s story is remarkable and emotional I loved her as a character It s not just what the story was, but how richly it was told Sarah Perry has given a gift to the reader in the form of her words The words I would use to describe Melmoth are inadequate and sift right through my fingertips, so I will end with this In its glory, Melmoth is full of darkness and despair juxtaposed with drips and drabs of sheer hope and determination If you are looking for a complex, literary read unlike any other, Melmoth is a solid and ultimately rewarding choice Thanks to my Goodreads friend Tammy for the recommendation Thanks also to Custom House books Harper Collins for the opportunity to read and review this ARC All opinions are my own My reviews can also be found on my blog www.
com For full review, please visit my blog have a lot of feelings for this book It s one of those that makes you think about the writer, because you re in awe of what they re capable of The sophistication, elegance and somehow the smell of history is seeping through Perry s pages, and I LOVE it.
The story is set in Prague at contemporary times, though it has an 18th Century gothic feel to it It s definitely scary at times and often I found myself holding my breath The book is written in forms of letters, diary entries and with a narrative Present times written like a Victorian gothic novel in different shape or forms is a proof of Perry s undeniable craftsmanship, and uniqueness.
Helen Franklin is an English translator, who ended up in Prague with her mysterious past and very guilty heart She comes across a mysterious file, containing letters and diary entries from different periods of history All people in these stories share a common theme Guilt, redemption and exile And Melmoth the Witness, is following them Who is she Is she real Why is she following these people Melmoth is a dark read with its very much flawed characters I can t guarantee you ll like them, but I can guarantee it will make you think a lot and it will make you question yourself In my opinion, the novel reaches its climax when Helen s story was revealed It was so emotional, so well written, almost UNFORGETTABLE I will think about it for long time to come.
And, here comes my BUT for the book and hence 4 stars I loved the book and the beautiful writing, there s no doubt to it However, the last part after we learn about Helen s story felt a bit forced at the last minute Because Helen s story was so impactful, and the core mystery of the book, reading something completely different after that point threw me off I wish the closure was there, then it would be a perfect book for me.
Regardless, Melmoth is literary fiction at its best, and Sarah Perry is the REAL DEAL I would read her books any day.
I will never forget about Helen s storyI will never forget how it s told.
I will never forget about Melmoth.
And I will never forget about the human emotion dripping off the pages of this book If you re a literary fiction lover, you MUST read it Thanks so much to Serpent s Tail publishers for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Ugh, argh I tried, I really tried Stopped halfway through when I remembered I wasn t going to live forever, unlike poor Melmoth.
The author s wonderful prior book, The Essex Serpent, was one of my recent favorites I was prepared to love this one Certainly the writing remains quite beautiful Sarah Perry has talent to burn And burn it up she does First complaint, the lesser one, is that the title character in question held very little interest, and wasn t remotely intimidating or fearful or awe inspiring Perry is a fabulous writer, but one gap in her array of formidable skills is any ability to create an atmosphere of smoldering horror I can t put my finger on the reason for the lack, but I m not sure I need to The basic fact of the matter, for me at least, is that dread was missing And frisson It didn t help that the entity in question poor, weepy, immortal Melmoth is a bit schizophrenic Is she haunting anyone who despairs, or just those people whose apathy and complacency have led them to a self flagellating despair I dunno.
Second complaint, the major one, is regarding the author s inexplicable decision to provide a cast of characters who are specifically defined by their incredible drabness She really outdid herself in illustrating these awfully blah characters and their blah lives If not blah, then toxic Sometimes both at the same time If not blah and or toxic, then pitiful In all cases, uninteresting And so a book about completely uninteresting people ended up completely uninteresting No surprise there, I guess The book was a chore to read Maybe it gets better, but I ll never know Perry fills her novel with charming, often gorgeous prose, and a narrator who sounds like they are recounting a fairy tale To what end though It was like getting served a bowl of gruel with a delicate chocolate sauce ladled on top The inspired prose actually served to make the book evenintolerable.
Because I loved The Essex Serpent so much, I decided to remind myself of how insightful a writer she can be when writing about things that are interesting, or that she makes interesting For example, this award winning travel piece visits the Philippines, the land of my birth She does no disservice to the people or place I know the people she describes and they are in that piece, as alive there as they are in my life An excellent and moving article.
This is Sarah Perry s first book since the much heralded The Essex Serpent That book followed on from her debut novel After Me Comes the Flood and continued her style of writing a modern, water based take on the English Gothic tradition.
This her third book continues her Gothic tradition as it is an explicit reimagining of the relatively little known Gothic novel Melmoth the Wanderer in which the titular character sells his soul for an additional 150 years of life However it is also very clearly influenced by two months that Perry spent in 2016 between the completion and publication as a writer in residence at Prague and has broadened out her English focus.
The book in fact opens in wintery Prague a city that Perry conjours up brilliantly in the opening pages fromoverhead the low clouds split, and the upturned bowl of a silver moon pours milk out on the River , Christmas markets wherewomen from Hove and Hartlepool clasp paper cups of steaming wineor a protagonist whohas never exchanged her money for a set of nesting dolls in the scarlet strip of an English football teamwhich isthan can be said for this reviewer Perry s ear for language and description continues throughout the book.
Our main character is Helen Franklin a 40 something Englishwomen living in Prague in self imposed exile and asceticism clearly due to some action 20 years previously for which she seems to be punishing herself Helen is a translator from German to English although not of Schiller or A New Edition of Sebald but An instruction manual for Bosch Power Tools Although having said that Helen is our main character the omniescent perhapsomnivient narrator here is also a strong character, addressing the reader directly and particularly often drawing our attention to background scenes One of Helen s two friends is Karel a University researcher in a relationship with a retired English barrister Thea who has recently suffered a stroke Karel, normally an easy going character, tells Helen he is haunted by a document passed to him by an older man, Hoffman, that he met in the library, a document he passes to Helen and which is reproduced in the book, along with a number of other older documents sourced by Hoffman or Karel.
The documents introduce us to the legendary folklore figure of Melmoth here altered to be one of the witnesses in the Garden of Gethsemane but who having denied what she saw is cursed to wander the earth without home or respite always watching, always seeking out everything that s most distressing and most wicked, in a world which is surpassingly wicked, and full of distress praying on those who have committed terrible acts and trying to draw them into despair so that they agree to be her companions.
And in turn we learn the stories of those that are haunted by Melmoth and the terrible secrets that a number of them committed in stories which take us from the Protestant Martyrs under Queen Mary, to the Turkish bureaucrats responsible for the Armenian genocide, to Nazi collaborators in World War II Prague and even to the deportation of refugees in present day England We also findabout the incident that has haunted Helen.
Perry herself has written about how she was suffering from severe pain mitigated by opiod drugs when writing this novel and I was able to see a number of influences from this article in the book most obviously the highs from her treatment clearly come out in the fantastical elements of the book particularly the terrible black figure of Melmoth, materialising first as smoke and liquid, with a smell of lilies and decay further pain is a recurring element of the book either the pain inflicted on others by people s acts one of Melmoth s signature techniques is to show her intended companions the terrible suffering of their companions but also the fear of pain which induces those acts but also her pre pain admiration of Casaubon, his ascetic life and priggishness is reflected in the early character of Helen.
As an aside, while Essex Serpent had many qualities I appreciated, my main criticism was that the Cora character does not really convince as one so remarkable that all the others base their lives around hers By having such a fantastical central character, Perry cannot be accused of the same here.
The themes of the book are clear Firstly the depths to which humankind can and does sink, the individual actions as well as deliberate evasions which lead to and allow terrible suffering and injustice, the hidden secrets at the heart of many lives But this dark message is also offset by a redemptive one In the case of Hoffman of a single good action which goes some way to offset his single terrible one For Karel the realisation that rather than the roles of Melmoth as first a false and then a condemning witness, and those of others who turned and still turn a blind eye to injustice, can instead be transformed into being an outspoken witness to injustice and a campaigner for reform For Helen the hard won realisation that her own selfishness was offset by the self sacrifice of another, a sacrifice she should have celebrated as a gift that was offered to her, rather than wallowing in her own self condemnation and then the final acceptance that both self forgiveness and forgiveness by those she wronged are possible.
Overall while not a flawless book the juxtaposition of gothic fantasy against 20th Century atrocity is a difficult balancing act which does not always quite succeed , this is a powerful one one which I read in a single sitting but which I think will remain with me and one I expect to see on a number of prize lists over the coming months.
If you have never read a book by Sarah Perry read The Essex Serpent It is a brilliantly conceived novel of two sterling, intriguing characters set in 1880s England Each is so carefully delineated that I could tell you everything about them now and I read this 2 years ago.
Melmoth is good and I liked it very much, but I felt it was kind of lacking a center It seemed to want to tell too many stories, although this is a very short book There are stunning parts, though This is about the terrible things we to do to one another through cowardice, envy, spite, and other sins, even murder, and if we can ultimately be forgiven or find redemption Helen is the main character she is a drab, ascetic whose main goal in life is self punishment for what we don t know, but learn later.
Melmoth is the spirit that sees you and has been watching you since childhood waiting for you to fail It sees you entire without your facade of decency and humanity It sees what you are trying to hide I started to feel really guilty while reading and it is a strong storyteller who can make the reader feel remorse for their character failings.
In the book, Melmoth catches up with Helen at her lowest point, facing the man she sinned against , and Helen faces her fears and chooses hope, so even though most of the book is depressing, it ends on a high note.
Using the architecture of the Victorian Gothic novel, Perry weaves a tale that keeps one spellbound Through letters, diaries and narrative, we are privy to encounters with a soul damned to walk the earth for eternity and bear witness to the secret evil we commit and the repercussions of our actions Look closely Inquisitive Jackdaws caw their questions, seed pearls fall like tears, feathers hint at movement from this world to the next and singing signals an imminent arrival Highly literary, this magnificent novel explores the notions of intention, sin, guilt and redemption Aren t we all prisoners of our own device A captivating and stunning achievement.
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend A brooding atmosphere shrouded in mystery, enfolded with dark lore and stitched together with secrets Melmoth speaks to our most shameful transgressions and the longing for redemption it whispers and taunts and beckons with a crooked finger, drawing its audience on puppet strings to the final page where a haunting conclusion awaits LookA jackdaw blue eyed and black winged sits at the window, peck peck pecking at the glassShe came near and I smelt her then sweet as lilies in summer, rotten as spoiled meat She came slowly to me and said nothing and then she fell to her knees at my feet Her eyes hung in the bones of her face like spheres of smoky glass and they contained every wickedness imagined or acted onNote Quote taken from an Advanced Reader Edition.