01 December 2016

Alumna's novel wins Waterstones Book of the Year

By Development and Alumni Relations Team

The Essex Serpent by alumna Sarah Perry (MA Creative Writing 2006) was announced today to be the 2016 Book of the Year by Waterstones, the UK’s leading bookseller.

A compulsively readable and insightful novel, set in the Victorian London and Essex of the 1890s, The Essex Serpent confirms Sarah Perry’s place amongst the finest writers of her generation.

A master-class in historical fiction and an object lesson in how to inform and entertain, The Essex Serpent quickly became a favourite amongst Waterstones booksellers and their customers to become the word of mouth bestseller of the summer. Thus far, to the surprise of booksellers at Waterstones, it has not won any other literary prizes, although it is one of the four novels on the shortlist for the Costa Novel Award.

James Daunt, Waterstones Managing Director, welcomed the award: “The Essex Serpent blazed as the overwhelming choice by our booksellers to be their Book of the Year. A novel of rare intelligence and utterly compelling to read, it takes complete possession of the reader. It is a treasure and we recommend this wonderful book to everyone.”

The Essex Serpent triumphed over a shortlist of great quality, including the bestselling play from J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child; the visual and intellectual feast that is Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher de Hamel; and a charming, recently rediscovered Beatrix Potter title, The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots.

Sarah Perry (photo by Jamie Drew)

Sarah Perry (photo by Jamie Drew)

Sarah Perry said: “I am delighted beyond measure that The Essex Serpent is the Waterstones Book of the Year. From the moment The Essex Serpent was released, Waterstones’ booksellers were true friends of the book, and week after week I was moved and astonished by the creativity that went into windows, displays and murals all over the country. No author could hope for better champions of their work, or a more heartfelt introduction to readers, and I could not be more grateful.”

Waterstones offers a beautiful exclusive edition of The Essex Serpent. A blue cover with gold foil and embossed finishes, top and tail binding and bespoke endpapers make it a book whose exterior beauty matches the majesty of its writing.

The Waterstones Book of the Year 2016 was chosen by a Waterstones panel headed by James Daunt.

Every year, Waterstones booksellers are called on to nominate the book they think deserves the title of Book of the Year. They are asked to choose the book they find truly outstanding and which they have felt most pride in recommending and selling in the past year.

The Essex Serpent’s success story looks set to continue: as Book of the Year it will receive the full and committed backing of Waterstones shops and booksellers across the UK during the crucial shopping month of December, as well as support online and through its Loyalty Card programme, which reaches 1.5 million readers.

Last year’s winner, The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith saw an increase in sales of over 5000% across the Waterstones estate to make it one of 2015’s best-selling books.

The Essex Serpent - Waterstones cover