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Summary

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 her sheltered life is about to change.

A strange manuscript has come into her possession. 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. Helen can't stop reading or shake the feeling that someone 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 minute, this is a masterpiece of moral complexity, asking us profound questions about mercy, redemption and how to make the best of our conflicted world.

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Beware she who wanders the earth!

Sarah Perry's follow-up to the hugely successful The Essex Serpent was a hard act to follow, but in Melmoth she has produced a book even more ambitious and confidently gothic. BUT if the listener is not familiar with gothic literature he or she will be totally at sea throughout unless listening is prefaced with some factual information.

As her title suggests, Perry has re-worked the 1820 work of Charles Maturin (Oscar Wilde's eccentric clergyman great uncle), Melmoth the Wanderer, written to rival his contemporary giants of German gothic. In Maturin's story, John Melmoth has made a Faustian pact with the Devil for 150 extra years of life, but he must find someone to take it on otherwise he'll burn in hell. A skein of diffuse stories told by Melmoth's victims make up Maturin's work.

Perry's novel follows Maturin in her essential idea of the central lurking, threatening spectral figure, in the rambling structure through time and in the many detailed, diffuse, discrete stories, fictional letters and journals. Perry's Melmoth is Melmotka, the name apparently given in Prague to this tormented woman with the bleeding feet where the central human character, the seemingly ordinary Helen Franklin, is working as a translator.

The main focus is on Helen and her past to which Melmotka's unbidden appearances bind her. This dark, shadowy, witch-like, inescapable, repellent woman oozing both evil and pitiable loneliness haunts and stalks throughout the novel, in whichever century she has shifted to, witnessing hideous atrocities, both historical and fictional. She can jump centuries 'the years leaving her like the skin of a snake' as she flits between reality and myth.

The book's episodes are startlingly indelible, even horrific: Josef's protracted sufferings in anti-Semite Prague; Helen's experience in Manila as a young woman tending Rosa who is slowly dying in agony after an acid attack; events leading up to the Armenian massacres; Mogul murders; execution by fire...These pieces force us to witness horror and thus contemplate Perry's themes of punishment, guilt, evil and loneliness.

This is a hugely rich work in which Perry weaves myth, folklore, religions past and present, and the supernatural, all firmly anchored in the realism of our complex world now. It's far-ranging in its references, and is both challenging and rewarding: a second listening or a reading of the text would yield yet more. (I was confused in places, I must admit.) Emilia Fox's narration is excellent - a very difficult assignment brilliantly carried out. It couldn't be bettered.

Look out for Melmoth in the Man Booker shortlist next year!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Beautiful and devastating <br />

impossible to convey how deeply affecting this novel is, read with fluency and utterly convincing. Quite simply, it broke my heart.

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Wow

This book left me gasping so full of truths and lies , so poignant , and so beautifully written.
I can't remember when I was last grabbed so by a story

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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So slow and tedious

I really wanted to enjoy this book but I have given up on it because it is so boring. The reading just makes it worse because it is so slow and trying too hard to be mysterious and interesting but it fails on all counts. Sorry to be negative but 4 chapters was enough.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

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So badly read ,had to give up.

Sarah Perry is badly served by the Reader . Who ever chose EF should be sacked .

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jennifer
  • 20-11-18

Intriguing and spellbinding!

Everything about this book was perfect! Yes it's a bit dark, but not so much so that it is depressing. The story unfolds elegantly. it's narrated perfectly. Worth every minute!

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 14-11-18

who is Melmoth<br />

a legend , a myth, real, fiction, dead, your conscience, a figment of your imagination? Or something else altogether? This book is a story of a woman's life told in fragmented flashbacks of seemingly unrelated threads. Finally towards the end a tapestry begins to form, not always beautiful, careworn, even ugly in part much like any life's tapestry but uniquely and wonderfully the story of Helen fo middle age.