A Gilded Serpent: The Story of a Dark Deed
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FAMILY OF THE HYDRA
To ask other readers questions about Melmoth , please sign up. Does this book get better? I am surprised by how hard it is to get thru. I enjoyed The Essex Serpent. If I hadn't paid full price for this, I would've bailed by now. Julia O'Connell I found the letters and flashbacks much more interesting than the present-day story where all Helen does is wander around thinking vaguely about her …more I found the letters and flashbacks much more interesting than the present-day story where all Helen does is wander around thinking vaguely about her "sin.
But yeah, it took a while to get there. Power Pasta No need to read Essex Serpent first. I've read both and both are amazing. Not linked except by brilliant writing. I'll read anything that she writes!! See all 7 questions about Melmoth…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details.
More filters. Sort order. It is winter in Prague: night is rising in the mother of cities and over her thousand spires. Look down at the darkness around your feet, in all the lanes and alleys, as if it were a soft black dust; look at the stone apostles on the old Charles Bridge, and at all the blue-eyed jackdaws on the shoulders of St John of Nepomuk! She is coming over the bridge, head bent down to the whitening cobblestones. A woman that is in a self-inflicted limbo, punishing herself, trying to appear unnoticed through the shadows of a city where mysticism has woven an eternal veil.
A woman of mystery, a tale of a dark presence lurking a little behind of all of us, waiting for the moment of the great fall, of despair and cruelty and sorrow. This is Melmoth by Sarah Perry. The closest to my heart, following Wuthering Heights. When I turned the last page, I found I had tears in my eyes. This is a hymn, an homage to the unique, magnificent city of Prague, a capital very dear to me. A city of culture and spirit.
A city where light and darkness battle with each other, its corners the habitat of legends and ghosts.
Try walking in its cobblestones streets during the night. Even the most skeptical of you will start looking around and behind in apprehension, hearing footsteps perfectly synchronized with yours. The Black Lights shows, one of the most well-known cultural attractions of Prague. A city that is probably the most haunting in Europe, along with Edinburgh. What is this presence that causes such terror? Melmoth the Witness. Unlike the other women, she lied about what she had witnessed and was condemned to roam the earth with her bleeding, bare feet, witnessing the despair and cruelty of the human race, forever lonely, feared and despised.
And since she will not look, you must. She transforms windows into threatening objects due to the darkness that is lurking behind them. I never liked windows when the curtains were drawn aside. My mother has told me that even as a baby I would nail my gaze to the window, unblinking. When I grew up, I always asked for someone to close the curtains.
I still do that, even in gloomy, wintry mornings. So this fact alone in the novel brought me in a state of serious terror. I genuinely avoided reading it unless I had company in the house. Even at noon, I found myself nervously looking around me or at the window. I had goosebumps. The combination of windows and black cladded figures had me shivering.
Josef and his family are German living in Prague, devoted Nazists due to their maddening notion of lineage and supremacy. The Second World War comes and goes and the time of the reckoning is at hands. Melmoth jumps to the calling. There were many devastating descriptions of the city during the era of the occupation by the Nazi monsters. Often, you get what you deserve and the blood of millions of innocents cried for justice. It requires patience, the right mentality. It requires attention and thought. It requires patience. This is what happens with Literary Fiction, it prevents us from becoming lazy readers.
Why complain about a book with many characters and multiple narratives? This is what makes a book rich, challenging, meaningful. The spaces, the rooms, the settings are outstanding. She creates anticipation, sheer terror by a simple description of the shadows of the curtains and the furniture in a hospital room… This is how perfect a writer she is.
Also, as in her masterpiece The Essex Serpent , there is a very balanced, very interesting focus on religion and the way it is perceived by each one of us in our daily lives. It is evening now, and no snow falling: the cobbles on Charles Bridge and in the Old Town Square are glittering and treacherous and every minute someone somewhere falls. Master Jan Hus in his winter cloak looks silently over the crowd: you might think, were you so inclined, that he is recalling how once he wore a proper hat on which painted devils danced, and walked to where the fires were banked to burn him.
It is a low note, melancholy, ringing up from the pavements and down from the eaves of apartment blocks. Helen will stay with you for a long, long time. In the end, words cannot possibly convey the bonding between this novel and me. Those of you who know me well, know what this means. Melmoth is a book unlike any other. A place where darkness, despair, hope, and endurance form a masterfully choreographed danse macabre. It came to find me in a very particular moment in my life. I know what a fraud you are, what an impostor - you never had me fooled.
View all 52 comments. 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, t Using the architecture of the Victorian Gothic novel, Perry weaves a tale that keeps one spellbound. Highly literary, this magnificent novel explores the notions of intention, sin, guilt and redemption. A captivating and stunning achievement. View all 70 comments. 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. A jackdaw - blue-eyed and black-winged - sits at the window, peck- Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend. A jackdaw - blue-eyed and black-winged - sits at the window, peck-peck-pecking at the glass.
She came near and I smelt her then - sweet as lilies in summer, rotten as spoiled meat. Her eyes hung in the bones of her face like spheres of smoky glass and they contained every wickedness imagined or acted on. View all 11 comments. Shelves: arcs , kindle-version , reads. Set in Prague, we meet Helen Franklin, an English translator with a mysterious past.
She carries tremendous guilt with her. There are common themes of guilt within all these entries. There is a warning, too…Melmoth the Witness travels through time to obser 5 original, stand-out stars to Melmoth! But what does she do with it? Does she hurt, or does she help? Or does she do nothing at all? I loved her as a character. 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! All opinions are my own. My reviews can also be found on my blog www. View all 51 comments. 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 figur "I wonder, when God permitted us to fall, if He knew we'd fall so far. 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. 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 little more creepiness and a little more Gothic 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 wanted more of 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 more. I would encourage readers to decide for themselves.
Read the other reviews Thank you to Harper Collins and Edelweiss who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
LERNAEAN HYDRA - Nine-Headed Serpent of Greek Mythology
All the thoughts and opinions are my own. Read more of my reviews at www. View all 12 comments. 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 Ugh, argh!
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. In all cases, uninteresting.
And so a book about completely uninteresting people ended up 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 even more intolerable. 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.
She 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. The nymphs of the spring that he found, falling in love with his beauty, had abducted and drowned him; but Herakles refused to give up searching, and so the Argo had to sail without him. On the Greek shore of the Bosphoros the Argonauts found Phineus, a blind seer and son of Poseidon, on whom the gods had inflicted a terrible curse.
Whenever he sat down to eat, he was visited by a plague of Harpies, terrible creatures part-woman and part-bird, who seized some of the food in their beaks and talons and defiled the rest with their excrement. The Argonauts set a trap for these monsters. They invited Phineus to share their table, and when the Harpies appeared, the winged sons of the North Wind drew their swords and pursued them until, exhausted, they promised to desist. Phineus then revealed to them as much as he was able concerning their journey: the main hazards they would face were the clashing rocks which crushed passing vessels between them.
When they reached these the Argonauts were to send a dove through first. If the dove found the passage between the rocks, so too would the Argo. However, if the dove failed, they should turn the ship around, for their mission was doomed to failure. A dove was duly sent out and did pass safely through the clashing rocks, leaving only its longest tail feather in their grip; the Argo too sped through the narrow channel, suffering only slight damage to her stern timbers, and without any more significant adventures the Argonauts arrived safely at Colchis.
Jason rather rashly agreed to all these conditions, but was fortunate enough to receive the help of the king's daughter Medea, a sorceress. Medea made Jason promise that he would take her back to Iolkos as his wife before giving him a magic fire-resistant ointment to rub over his body and his shield to help him accomplish the first task.
For the second task, she instructed him to throw stones into the midst of the group of armed men, so that they would attack each other rather than Jason himself. In this way, Jason easily succeeded in all his tasks. He even attempted to set fire to the Argo and kill her crew. So a plan was hatched. Medea drugged the guardian serpent with a magic potion and Jason quickly removed the Golden Fleece from the sacred grove, and then they slipped quietly away to the sea with the rest of the Argonauts. The baleful Erinys obstructed them, and blocked the way.
Stretching out her arms, wreathed with knots of vipers, she flailed her hair, and the snakes hissed at her movements. Some coiled over her shoulders, some slid over her breast, giving out whistling noises, vomiting blood, and flickering their tongues. Then she pulls two serpents from the midst of her hair, and hurls what she has snatched with a deadly aim. They slither over Ino and Athamas, and blow their oppressive breath into them. Their limbs are not wounded: it is the mind that feels the dreadful stroke.
She had boiled them, mixed with fresh blood, in hollow bronze, stirred with a stalk of green hemlock. While they stood trembling, she poured this venom of the Furies over the breasts of the two of them, and sent it into the depths of their minds. So having conquered them, and carried out her orders, she returned to the wide kingdom of mighty Dis , and unloosed the serpent she had wrapped around her. Then the mother, roused at last by the pain this caused, or by reason of the poison sprinkled on her, howled like an animal, and fled, insanely, tearing at her hair.
A cliff overhung the water, carved out at its base by the breakers, and it sheltered the waves it hid, from the rain. Its summit reared up and stretched out, in front, over the water, into empty space. Ino climbed up there madness had lent her strength and unrestrained by fear threw herself and her burden into the sea: the wave foamed white where she fell. Not doubting that she was dead, they mourned for the House of Cadmus , beating their breasts, tearing at their clothes and hair, saying that the goddess had shown too little justice, and too much cruelty, to the rival who had made her jealous.
What she said was done. Another felt her raised arms grow rigid, when she tried to beat her breasts, as she had been doing. Another chanced to stretch her hands out to the waves of the sea, but now hands made of stone were extended over the same waves. One, as she tore at the crown of her head to pull out her hair, you might see, suddenly with stiffened fingers amongst her hair. Whatever gesture they were caught in, there they remained. Others, Theban women , changed to birds, also, now, skim the surface of those depths with their wings. The son of Agenor , Cadmus , did not know that his daughter and little grandson were now sea-gods.
Conquered by the pain of this run of disasters, and daunted by all he had seen, the founder departed his city, as if the misfortunes of the place and not himself were oppressing him. Driven to wandering, at length his journey carried him and his wife to the borders of Illyria. Now, weighed down by age and sadness, they thought of the original destiny of their house, and in talk reviewed their sufferings. If that is what the gods have been avenging with such sure anger, may I myself stretch out as a long-bellied snake.
He lay prone on his breast, and gradually his legs fused together thinning out towards a smooth point. He wanted to say so much more, but suddenly his tongue was split in two, and though he wished for words none came, and whenever he started on some plaintive sound, he hissed: this was the voice that Nature bequeathed him. Cadmus, what is it? Where are your feet? Where are your hands, shoulders, face, colour, everything — while I speak?
She spoke. Everyone who was there their comrades were present was horrified, but she stroked the gleaming neck of the crested serpent, and suddenly there were two snakes there, with intertwining coils, until they sought the shelter of the neighbouring woods. Even now they do not avoid human beings or wound them, quiet serpents, remembering what they once were.
Nevertheless even in their altered form, their grandson Bacchus gave them great consolation, whom conquered India worshipped, to whose newly created temples the Achaians thronged. Only Acrisius , son of Abas , born from the same roots through Belus brother of Agenor , was an exception, who closed Argos within its walls, took up arms against the god, and did not consider him a child of Jupiter. The earth caught them and gave them life, as species of snakes, and so that country is infested with deadly serpents.
He was driven from there by conflicting winds, carried this way and that, through vast spaces, like a raincloud. He flew over the whole world, looking down, through the air, from a great height, at remote countries. Often he was forced below the west, often into the east, and now as the light died, afraid to trust to night, he put down in the western regions of Hesperus , in the kingdom of Atlas.
Here was Atlas, son of Iapetus , exceeding all men by the size of his body. He had a thousand flocks, and as many herds of cattle straying through the grass, and no neighbouring soil was richer than his. The leaves of the trees, bright with radiant gold, covered branches of gold, and fruit of gold. Or if you admire great deeds, you will admire mine. I ask for hospitality and rest. Atlas remembered an ancient prophecy.
Themis on Parnassus had given that prophecy. Inferior in strength who could equal Atlas in strength? Atlas became a mountain, as huge as he himself had been. Now his hair and beard were changed into trees, his shoulders and hands into ridges. What had been his head before was the crest on the mountain summit. His bones became stones. Then he grew to an immense height in every part so you gods determined and the whole sky, with its many stars, rested on him. Aeolus , son of Hippotas , had confined the winds in their prison under Mount Etna , and Lucifer , who exhorts us to work, shone brightest of all in the depths of the eastern sky.
Perseus strapped the winged sandals, he had put to one side, to his feet, armed himself with his curved sword, and cut through the clear air on beating pinions. Leaving innumerable nations behind, below and around him, he came in sight of the Ethiopian peoples, and the fields of Cepheus. As soon as Perseus, great-grandson of Abas , saw her fastened by her arms to the hard rock, he would have thought she was a marble statue, except that a light breeze stirred her hair, and warm tears ran from her eyes.
He took fire without knowing it and was stunned, and seized by the vision of the form he saw, he almost forgot to flicker his wings in the air.
Tell me your name, I wish to know it, and the name of your country, and why you are wearing these fetters. At first she was silent: a virgin, she did not dare to address a man, and she would have hidden her face modestly with her hands, if they had not been fastened behind her. She used her eyes instead, and they filled with welling tears. At his repeated insistence, so as not to seem to be acknowledging a fault of her own, she told him her name and the name of her country, and what faith her mother had had in her own beauty.
Before she had finished speaking, all the waves resounded, and a monster menaced them, rising from the deep sea, and covered the wide waters with its breadth. The girl cried out: her grieving father and mother were together nearby, both wretched, but the mother more justifiably so.
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They bring no help with them, only weeping and lamentations to suit the moment, and cling to her fettered body. If the gods favour me, I will try to add further merit to these great gifts. I will make a bargain. Rescued by my courage, she must be mine. See how the creature comes parting the waves, with surging breast, like a fast ship, with pointed prow, ploughing the water, driven by the sweat-covered muscles of her crew.
It was as far from the rock as a Balearic sling can send a lead shot through the air, when suddenly the young hero, pushing his feet hard against the earth, shot high among the clouds. Hurt by the deep wound, now it reared high in the air, now it dived underwater, or turned now, like a fierce wild boar, when the dogs scare him, and the pack is baying around him. Perseus evades the eager jaws on swift wings, and strikes with his curved sword wherever the monster is exposed, now at the back encrusted with barnacles, now at the sides of the body, now where the tail is slenderest, ending fishlike.
The beast vomits seawater mixed with purplish blood. The pinions grow heavy, soaked with spray. Not daring to trust his drenched wings any further, he sees a rock whose highest point stands above quiet water, hidden by rough seas. Resting there, and holding on to the topmost pinnacle with his left hand, he drives his sword in three or four times, repeatedly. The shores, and the high places of the gods, fill with the clamor of applause. Cassiope and Cepheus rejoice, and greet their son-in-law, acknowledging him as the pillar of their house, and their deliverer.
Released from her chains, the girl comes forward, the prize and the cause of his efforts. And the ocean nymphs try out this wonder on more plants, and are delighted that the same thing happens at its touch, and repeat it by scattering the seeds from the plants through the waves. Even now corals have the same nature, hardening at a touch of air, and what was alive, under the water, above water is turned to stone. To the three gods, he builds the same number of altars out of turf, to you Mercury on the left, to you Minerva , warlike virgin, on the right, and an altar of Jupiter in the centre.
He sacrifices a cow to Minerva, a calf to the wing-footed god, and a bull to you, greatest of the gods.