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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > Jan/Feb 2019 > Fiction in brief

Fiction in brief

Melmoth by Sarah Perry (Serpent’s Tail, £16.99)

Sarah Perry’s bestselling second novel The Essex Serpent was one of those books that plucked you from your seat in a couple of sentences and deposited you somewhere damp, Gothic and rather magical. Perry’s new novel, Melmoth, is another Gothic romp, but one more likely to perplex than enchant.

The novel takes its cue from Melmoth the Wanderer—an arcane horror story written by an Irish clergyman in 1820, in which a man, having traded his soul for a longer life, is doomed to spend it wandering the earth.

Perry’s novel recasts women in the titular roles: Helen Franklin, a translator based in Prague, comes across a mysterious folder containing a sheaf of historic letters, all describing the same black-clad female figure.

Melmoth, the myth goes, denied the truth of Christ’s Resurrection, and was cursed to walk the earth until Judgment Day, bearing witness to the worst of humanity. Helen, her conscience tortured by the fearful accounts as well as an undisclosed crime of her own, loses her hard-won selfcontrol, cringing at Melmoth’s judgmental gaze, the smell of lilies on the air.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s January/February double issue: A host of writers and personalities explain what they think will be the most important thing we need to learn in the new year. From Justin Welby arguing for new emphasis on learning to forgive and Lord Neuberger on the importance of a free judiciary to Hannah Fry on AI and Cathy Newman on what happens next for #MeToo—Prospect has it all. Elsewhere in the issue: Fintan O’Toole looks at Brexit from an Irish perspective, Wendell Steavenson dishes the dirt on what really happens to the waste you want to recycle, Frank Close questions why—half a century after our last visit—we’ve not been back to the Moon. Also, Michael Blastland argues that we’re ignoring the upsides of having an alcoholic drink and Clive James explores the life of Philip Larkin.