Sarah Perry

Sarah Perry is the author of the novels After Me Comes the Flood and The Essex Serpent. Her latest, Melmoth, is out in paperback next month.

Roman Fever

Sarah Perry, 26 September 2019

Depictions of malaria became linked with gender after it was realised that the female mosquito was more deadly than the male. Venturing out after dusk, her proboscis lubricious with saliva to aid penetration, she requires blood not for sustenance but for the production of eggs. Inevitably, the mosquito became connected with ideas of dangerous female agency. ‘The female mosquito is most emphatically a shrieking suffragette,’ a contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle wrote in 1915.

Even the worst corner of the worst slum couldn’t compete with hospital wards and dissection rooms for filth. Sparrows squabbled over morsels of lung; a rat gnawed at a vertebra. Surgeons took pride in aprons so dirty they could have stood up on their own; one stored his instruments up his sleeve between surgeries to keep them warm. This was the Grand Guignol stage on which Joseph Lister took his place.

Letter

Not a Woman in Flight

3 January 2019

I was surprised to find Edmund Gordon so disarrayed by the idea that a Victorian girl could have imagined the world to be peopled with women medics, engineers, socialists and so on (LRB, 3 January). He is referring to my novel The Essex Serpent, which he believes ‘giddy with anachronism’. The novel doesn’t specify the year in which it is set, but the reader can assume it is the late...

Helter-Skelter: ‘Melmoth’

Edmund Gordon, 3 January 2019

Sarah Perry​ was raised a Strict Baptist, with a number of exotic beliefs – in the literal existence of the devil, the creation of the earth in six days, the sinfulness of women wearing...

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