The Sunday Times Bestseller from the author of The Essex Serpent
'Hugely readable and profoundly important ... Perry's masterly piece of postmodern gothic is one of the great achievements of our century'
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2019 DYLAN THOMAS PRIZE
OBSERVER FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR 2018
'Beautiful, devastating, brilliant'
'Astonishingly dark ... exquisitely balanced'
'Packs a punch of atmosphere, creepiness, fear and melancholy'
'Mythic, ominous and sensitively human'
'Richly atmospheric, daring and surprising'
'Striking and brave, ... moving and terribly beautiful'
Oh my friend, won't you take my hand - I've been so lonely!
One winter night in Prague, Helen Franklin meets her friend Karel on the street.
Agitated and enthralled, he tells her he has come into possession of a mysterious old manuscript, filled with personal testimonies that take them from 17th-century England to wartime Czechoslovakia, the tropical streets of Manila, and 1920s Turkey. All of them tell of being followed by a tall, silent woman in black, bearing an unforgettable message.
Helen reads its contents with intrigue, but everything in her life is about to change.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
From the author: “I spent months and months in Prague while working on Melmoth. I consider place to be a character in my books and to have as much effect on the characters and the text as dialogue, because people behave differently in different environments. If you can make the reader feel like they’re in a place, then when things happen to the characters who are in the place, the reader feels it more. I wrote this novel from the point of view of somebody who was displaced. So, my Prague in Melmoth is a tourist’s Prague; it’s a displaced person’s Prague. Helen Franklin will never see Prague as a Czech person, she’s only seeing it as an English person who is overwhelmed by its strangeness and its beauty and its dark alleys and all the rest of it, which is really useful if you’ve, for some reason, decided to write a full-on horror novel, which is what I decided to do with Melmoth. I heard that Susan Hill, the author of The Woman in Black, couldn’t sleep with Melmoth on her bedside table because it was too scary. I heard about people keeping it in the freezer overnight. And I was just delighted.”
Loosely inspired by Charles Maturin's 1820 novel, Melmoth the Wanderer, the successor to Perry's 2016 novel, The Essex Serpent, is an unforgettable achievement. At 42, British-born translator Helen Franklin lives in Prague, denying herself love and pleasure to atone for an unnamed wrong she committed 20 years before. In December 2016, she has a disturbing encounter with her friend, university professor Karel Pra an, during which Karel clutches a leather file and speaks wildly of Melmoth, a specter that folktales claim was among the women who glimpsed the risen Christ. After denying her sight of God, she was cursed to wander forever, seeking out the wicked in the hopes that bearing witness will win her salvation. When Karel suddenly disappears, Helen delves into his file, which chronicles Melmoth's appearances to individuals culpable of individual or collective acts of cruelty. Soon, she too is haunted by a shadowy figure and drawn inexorably toward a reckoning with her past. Though rich in gothic tropes and sinister atmosphere, the novel transcends pastiche. Perry's heartbreaking, horrifying monster confronts the characters not just with the uncanny but also with the human: with humanity's complicity in history's darkest moments, its capacity for guilt, its power of witness, and its longing for both companionship and redemption.