Melmoth: A Novel

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In shadowed Prague, Helen Franklin lives in a self-imposed exile and works as a translator. Her only friends are an academic couple, Karel and Thea, but the warm respite they provide is soon disrupted. Karel collates a collection of historical documents after an odd acquaintance bequeaths his own chilling account of Melmoth the Witness. After Karel disappears, the guilty words he found—of a German boy complicit in the occupation of Prague, an English Protestant condemned to die, a Turkish bureaucrat with a sharpened pen—weigh on Helen. They all remind her of the single sin she has been trying to repent. For Melmoth watches all and offers her hand only to those most like her—the lonely and the unforgiven.

After Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent and its study in communal panic, Melmoth is Perry’s portrayal of a much more solitary, internal fear. The result is a unique contribution to the folk horror genre, whose strength comes from its ethereal, compelling description. The plot unfolds Helen’s research into forbidden knowledge too close to formula, however, and in the strong supporting narratives, an over-reliance on the same visual motifs detracts from the writing’s effect (so many jewels “dripping” and staring jackdaws). Still, Melmoth has a frigid beauty that you can turn over and over in admiration (its physical design is also wonderful).

Reviewed By:

Author Sarah Perry
Star Count /5
Format Hard
Page Count 288 pages
Publisher Custom House
Publish Date 2018-Oct-16
ISBN 9780062856395 Buy this Book
Issue December 2018
Category Science Fiction & Fantasy


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