Melmoth, by Sarah Perry
Published by Serpent’s Tail, 3rd October 2019 (First published 16th October 2018)
Genres: Historical fiction, fantasy, gothic
One winter’s night in Prague, Helen Franklin has a chance meeting with her friend Karel. But all is not right with him, he seems deranged and jumpy. It turns out that Karel has come into possession of a mysterious manuscript, which he then entrusts to Helen.
The manuscript itself is accompanied by various letters and testimonies. These stretch from 17th century England, to wartime Czechoslovakia, 1920s Turkey and Manila. Varied as they are, these accounts all have one common aspect: all tell of being followed by a tall, mysterious woman dressed all in black – Melmoth.
In my opinion, this is a very strange book. From what I have seen online, it has been quite polarising. It received very high praise and was named The Observer best fiction book of the year in 2018. But I found that many people agreed with me in that they found it difficult to like.
I did enjoy that the story is told through various means; letters and manuscripts, emails, prose etc. This allowed each person’s story to be told in their own voice and further enhanced the mystery, as these were all personal accounts and not one continuous story.
That being said, I found this book very confusing. Whilst reading it, I often found myself wondering where the story was and what the point of all of this was. Maybe my reaction was because I am unfamiliar with the gothic novel, and therefore this went over my head. Nevertheless, I struggled to connect with the book and the ending in particular.
My rating: 3/5