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Melmoth

Narrated by: Emilia Fox
Length: 11 hrs and 20 mins
Categories: Fiction, Literary
4 out of 5 stars (356 ratings)

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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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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Disappointing

Try as I might, I just couldn't get engaged with the story or the characters. When I realised I was no longer listening and the narration was just background noise to accompany me on my daily commute, I gave up.

20 of 20 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

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!

40 of 42 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

Slow going!

I'm finding this audiobook very difficult to review. It was a beautifully written book and the narration was superb, but I did struggle to become involved with the characters.
The story built up a great sense of tension and dread but it was incredibly slow going in places and I found myself drifting off and having to listen again to sections.
I would recommend it to others but feel you need to be in a certain frame of mind to fully appreciate.

21 of 22 people found this review helpful

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Atmospheric and compelling

Very special book, very well narrated with a very atmospheric Prague. Final revelations shocked and saddened me. A wonderful read.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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Love and hate

Brilliantly read by Emilia Fox.
I read this first and needed to hear it again to capture all the detail.
Love Perry’s writing style but this was oh so dark. So oppressive and not a bedtime read but appreciate that’s the desired style and it worked well. Read as though it was set in a much earlier era than 2016 so it was interesting being based on an original from many years ago.
It was a book club read and enjoyed it for the discussions but can’t say I loved it as so gothically dark.
Would have liked a relationship tree at the start as so detailed it was hard to switch and pickup between the strands at times.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Stunning

This is a quietly and subtley disturbing story. Very beautiful and very dark. The narration by Emilia Fox is flawless.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Brilliantly Atmospheric

A memorable read this. There is great structure and depth and it is genuinely unnerving as a result. I have lived and worked in Prague and Sarah Perry captures the underlying darkness of the city particularly well. All of the historic settings are convincing and the whole is clearly well researched. A superb gothic novel.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Wonderfully gothic

I’d enjoyed The Essex Serpent so was keen to read this. It does not disappoint and the ending was superb.

Emilia Fox is an excellent narrator.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Beautiful and devastating

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

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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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

6 of 7 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!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Ms. Holly Stephens
  • 06-05-19

Great read, well structured and creative.

I loved the flawed characters and was made to wait deliciously for the reason. Thoughtful and unexpected. Great ending.

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  • Albi
  • 03-03-19

I Love Sarah Perry and Emilia Fox

I loved every word of the Essex Serpent and Melmoth. Melmoth is a very different work, not for all readers i think. It's a brilliant book by a marvellous author. Hope to read more from Sarah Perry! Get the full experience with this Audiobook narrated by Emilia Fox! Every character is on point (Albina Horakova is so lovely!), it was a great experience to listen to this performance.

The Jackdaws
"why? why? how? why?"

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  • avid reader
  • 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.