Perry, Sarah

Tagged: Author

(1979-    ) UK author whose novels fit comfortably within the armature of Fantastika, while making some room for more straightforward sf readings (see Gothic SF). The protagonist of her first novel, After Me Comes the Flood (2014), who has become bewildered by a heat wave, exits London to find his brother in Norfolk, but goes astray into a mysterious woodland, where he finds himself entrapped in a house that seems to suffer Time Distortions, with people who seem to recognize him, and who live in apprehension of some abyssal apocalypse (see Eschatology). A continuing oppressive desert dryness gives some sense that he may have drifted into the Near Future at a time of terrible Climate Change.

Apprehensions of this sort, which evoke the work of Robert Aickman [for Aickman and Into the Woods see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below], also govern Perry's second novel, The Essex Serpent (2016), set in the late nineteenth century; its protagonist also leaves London, in this case for Essex, where she finds herself applying Darwinian arguments (see Evolution) to the seeming reappearance of the eponymous Monster, which she argues may be a prehistoric survival. Melmoth (2018), which makes direct reference to Charles R Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer (1820 4vols), revolves around the obscure but haunting figure of a woman who, like the Wandering Jew, denied Christ, in this case by refusing to admit that she saw Him risen after death. The protagonist of the tale, a guilt-ridden translator exiled in Prague, comes across a manuscript where the history of Melmoth is recounted indirectly, through the stories it unpacks of people who have, during their profoundly distressed lives, encountered her over the centuries. The twenty-first-century interrogation of Religion in all three novels, and the sometimes bubbly plenitude of her writing, make Perry's work instantly recognizable. [JC]

Sarah Grace Perry

born Chelmsford, Essex: 28 November 1979

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