Melmoth by Sarah Perry

melmoth
I absolutely loved this book.

Plot summary: Forty-two year-old Helen Franklin has lived an austere life in Prague for 20 years, working as a translator. She is introduced to the myth of Melmoth, a woman who wanders the Earth bearing witness to the sins of humankind. The story tells of Melmoth tormenting a range of characters who have sinned. Helen has a dark past, and she senses that she’s being followed. Slowly throughout the book, the torment of Helen builds, and her sin is revealed.

Quotes from the book:

  • ” … there is nobody watching, there is only us. And if there is only us, we must do what Melmoth would do: see what has to be seen – bear witness to what must not be forgotten.”
  • Oh, and I saw what you did when you shouldn’t have done it – I know what thoughts plague you the most, when you cannot keep hold of your mind – I know what you cannot confess – not even alone, when all the doors are bolted against your family and friends! I know what a fraud you are, what an imposter – you never had me fooled: I know how vain you’ve been, how weak and capricious and cruel. … But, my love I won’t leave you here to bear it on your own – I have walked to you on bleeding feet: who else could want you like this? Oh my friend, my darling – won’t you take my hand? I’ve been so lonely!”

Extract online    Author’s website


Reviews:

  • It is 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 for the daring reader. And the ending will sap your bones. Full review: Washington Post
  • It is a book that is always teetering right on the edge of being too much — but it never quite crosses over the line. Full review: Vox 
  • Self-consciously restrained novels are a dime a dozen, but weirdo over-the-top quasi-Victorian gothic fantasies about sin are rarer birds. This is a lush book, so let yourself luxuriate in it. Full review: Vox 

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