From the author of the bestselling The Essex Serpent comes a darkly inventive and deeply moving novel that speaks urgently to our times.
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 led 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.
About the Author
Sarah Perry was born in Essex in 1979. After Me Comes the Flood was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Folio Prize, and won the East Anglian Book of the Year Award in 2014. The Essex Serpent , was a number one bestseller in hardback, Waterstones Book of the Year 2016 and both Fiction Book of the Year and Overall Book of the Year 2017 at the British Book Awards. Her work has been translated into twenty languages. She lives in Norwich.
A novel that manages that vanishingly rare feat - being at once hugely readable and profoundly important ... Melmoth is a good book, one that, for all its uncanny shudders, comes from a place of decency and good faith, a beacon against the darkest times. Perry's masterly piece of postmodern gothic is one of the great achievements of our century and deserves all the prizes and praise that will be heaped upon it -- Alex Preston * Observer *
This is a beautiful, devastating, brilliant book. It affected me so much I was shaking after I read it. The exquisite, immersive writing compelled me to keep reading even through the horrors described. -- Marian Keyes
Astonishingly dark, rich storytelling, exquisitely balanced between gothic shocks and emotional truth. -- Francis Spufford
Richly atmospheric, daring and surprising, Melmoth seals Sarah Perry's place as chief architect of literature's gothic revival. -- Melissa Harrison
Striking in form and brave in the questions it asks of us all, moving and terribly beautiful, Melmoth left me troubled and haunted for weeks. -- Sam Guglani
Sarah Perry is a wonderful writer, the real thing. Her new novel Melmoth packs a punch of atmosphere, creepiness, fear and melancholy. I am going to move it off my bedside table because it is haunting my sleep. -- Susan Hill
Mythic, ominous and sensitively human, Melmoth is haunting in all the best ways... including the disquieting ones. -- Frances Hardinge
In rich, lyrical prose, Perry weaves history and myth, human frailty and compassion, into an affecting gothic morality tale for 2018. Like David Mitchell and Sarah Waters, Perry is changing what a modern-day ghost story can look like, challenging her readers to confront the realities of worldwide suffering from which fiction is so often an escape. A chilling novel about confronting our complicity in past atrocities-and retaining the strength and moral courage to strive for the future. * starred Kirkus review *
This is a sobering, disturbing, yet powerful and moving book that cannot fail to impress. * starred Booklist review *
The very notion of Melmoth strikes such an innate chord it's easy to believe this folklore could be true. And isn't that all it takes to create real horror? Perry's beautiful writing ensnares you with the tale of Helen, a translator living in modern-day Prague who uncovers the myth of Melmoth via letters and diary extracts from across the centuries. Sleep well... * Emerald Street *
Helen Franklin, a translator living in Prague, finds herself searching for the truth behind the dark, legendary figure Melmoth-while also being pursued by her. This gothic mystery novel from the author of The Essex Serpent is a treat. * Publishers Weekly Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2018 *
Praise for The Essex Serpent: 'One of the most memorable historical novels of the past decade' * Sunday Times *
Praise for After Me Comes the Flood: 'Remarkable... will haunt the reader long after the final page.' * Guardian *
An unforgettable achievement * starred Publishers Weekly review *
A writer with a far-seeing, delicately-coloured focus in creating both settings and characters, and an eye for picking out the extraordinary factors in everyday life ... Melmoth certainly doesn't disappoint ... a gripping read ... extremely tense, satisfying, and hard to put down ... a delicious, melancholic and complex kind of darkness which pervades throughout ... Definitely one to read as the nights draw in. -- Clare Mulley * The Skinny *
Hoffman's account of his treachery during the Second World War is a gripping piece of testimony. The scenes in a Manila hospital ... have a feverish, hallucinatory power -- Claire Allfree * Daily Telegraph *
Perry has crafted an atmospheric, gothic tale with the requisite bumps and shocks, but one that also asks profound and powerful questions about morality, mercy and redemption -- Alice O'Keeffe
Sublimely written, deliciously gothic and consistently intriguing throughout. -- Fanny Blake * Woman & Home *
This fever dream of a novel will prove as compelling and all-consuming as The Essex Serpent * Starred Library Journal review *
A singular creature ...utterly immersive ... It's quite a trick to have produced a playful, bona fide page-turner that also looks man's inhumanity to man in the face - yet it's one Perry has pulled off with aplomb. -- Stephanie Cross * Daily Mail *
Stylish gothic thrills in this atmosphic novel ... in an often drab literary landscape, Sarah Perry stands out as an exhilaratingly bold storyteller. -- Max Davidson * Mail on Sunday *
Perfectly creepy ... Gorgeously captures the tone and style of the 18th century Gothic novel ... Lush writing and a high concept make for a delicious autumnal read. -- Alexandra Heminsley * Grazia *
A sophisticated and delightful Gothic contraption. It is scary and smart, working as a horror story but also a philosophical inquiry into the nature of will and love * Washington Post *
The Queen of Gothic fiction returns with the book of the year, a dark and thoughtful story of guilt, sin and the lives we leave behind. -- Sarah Hughes * The i Paper *
It's fascinating, near unanswerable stuff, and the novel's overriding strength is its stark depiction of human frailty, cruelty and cowardice. Perry shows how psychic and societal -damage can converge -- Joanne Hayden * Irish Independent *
Dark, difficult, ambitious ... she is excellent on odd friendships and sudden intimacies. Her emphasis on tales told to those close at hand is a powerful pointer to the entangled fates of strangers who live side by side -- Alexandra Harris * Guardian *
This atmospheric novel will chill you to the marrow ... Perry remixes various mythologies to bring us Melmoth ... a true Gothic masterpiece, so rich in imagery that you can smell the blood of massacres ... the suggestion of Melmoth is far more terrifying than any gore-splattered horror story ... I could only read it in daylight, preferably in a public place, but it still scared the bejesus out of me. A tour de force, but not for the faint-hearted. -- Sarra Manning * Red *
I loved Melmoth ... Sarah Perry gets better and better, she's like MR James ... and writes like a dream * BBC Saturday Review *
Rich, elegant, atmospheric - the sentences carefully made, full of turns and delicate, closely observed detail... Perry is heartbreakingly acute on the power of witnessing -- Sean Hewitt * Irish Times *
An unforgettable achievement * starred Publishers Weekly review *
A haunting book that speaks to mankind's worst atrocities in the here and now * Independent *
Reels you in, using the same trick of all the best ghost stories, from The Turn of the Screw on: Is there really a ghost before you? Or do you see the projection of your own secret sins and desires? What is more frightening than the human? * The New York Times *
Masterful...scary and smart, working as a horror story but also a philosophical inquiry into the nature of will and love. Perry did as much in her richly praised novel The Essex Serpent, but this is a deeper, more complex novel and more rewarding. * Washington Post *
There is something satisfying in Melmoth's flamboyant emotions. The last few years have brought a glut of fashionably affectless and amoral fiction, the kind that induces a kind of weary glaze, almost like endless scrolling online. Sarah Perry's fierce, full-hearted books about love and ethics feel like an antidote to that elegant apathy. * NPR *
Melmoth - like the titular character herself - both beguiles and unnerves ... Atmospheric, emotive, and hauntingly beautiful, there's so much to explore and so much to savour that it will undoubtedly follow you long after you finish * AU Review *
Melmoth is filled with thought-provoking ideas on historical guilt and personal responsibility, as well as a depth of learning ... the message at its heart is an uplifting one; even if redemption for wrongdoing cannot always be achieved, there is power in bearing witness to suffering and in resisting against total, black despair. -- Arifa Akbar * Financial Times *