Savvy Book – Melmoth

Sarah Perry’s  ‘Melmoth’.

Perry’s latest novel centres around the deceased character of Melmoth, a lady who sweeps in and out of the world of the living, swishing around her black garments, and preying upon the vulnerable, repeatedly failing in her attempts to find a companion with whom she can share her eternal purgatory.

Beautifully written, ‘Melmoth’ is packed full with metaphors and similes I wish I could claim as my own! Images so colourful and vivid put for my approval. Images awaiting to be caught up in the imagination of an amateur 3D Paint scribbler – each one competing with the other to be the chosen one.

I’ve made my choice. Sarah Perry, you have spoken and I, Jay Cool, have listened, sifted and selected. And here, right now, I present to you, your ‘buildings plastered and painted in the colours of girls’ dresses in spring’ (p.39).

houses like dresses

You will notice, of course, that I have omitted to include the ‘black and terrible’ building that rises up from the Vltava, called ‘Prague Castle’ (p.39) but, for that, you will have to forgive me! You see, I have never been to Prague, the main setting for your story,  and am, at present, imprisoned within the boundary caves of a small English town in the county of Suffolk.

Not that I am looking for your pity, Perry, for, you see, my confinement is of my own making. True, I have been exiled from my birthland of Salop; but, no, I am not sitting here in hope of a visitation from the deceased Melmoth.

On the contrary, Melmoth the lonely wanderer can  keep herself to her lonely dead self, for I do not require her company, and neither will she acquire mine by force, persuasion or womanly charm. The issue here being that I really rather enjoy living in a cave and ladying it over my underlings. You see, I , Jay Cool, am descended from none other than Humphrey Kynaston, the cave-dwelling highwayman of Salop.

Great-Something-Grandfather Humphrey was exiled from Myddle Castle due to his criminal activities, but did he succumb to the pleadings of your Melmoth? No! He just crawled into a cave in Nesscliffe and got on with his life, occasionally popping out to jump onto the carriage of some unsuspecting passer-by and making off with a load of their valuables.

Hence, I await – not to unburden myself of all my woes and sorrows to Melmoth – but, like Humphrey, to await for the opportunity to jump out and …

…. to share my profound thoughts and artistic interpretations with the world!

And what better location for my ramblings and scribblings than in the haunts of another of my prestigious ancestors, my Great-Something-Granny, the Lady Elizabeth de Burgh! What’s more, judging by the excellence of my latest piece of artwork, then I do suspect that I must also be descended from the good Thomas Gainsborough, somewhere along some branch, or spindly twig of my family tree. And, if not from Gainsborough, from Constable or ….

… perhaps, I am a distant cousin of the great living author, Sarah Perry, herself. Indeed, I do have the surname Perry in my family tree and, had my dearest cousin, Sarah, not beaten me to it, I would almost certainly have come up with this wonderful image:

‘Hours it took for the men to go past, coming east over the bridge. All that day they spread and thinned throughout the city, as though they were particles in a dense black fog coming off the river that made its way into the alleys.’ (Perry, pp.50-51)

I guess that by way of acknowledgement that somebody else did it first, I really ought to offer Sarah one of my original illustrations for the accompaniment of her extended simile. But, I can’t possibly extend my generosity that far – it’s just all-too time consuming (and I haven’t caught up, yet, with the new series of X-Factor)! Instead, I turn to my trusty friend, so here goes!


All you have to do here, is to imagine that the ants are back, that they are walking over a river, rather than a grassy plain, and that there are a lot more of them – and there you have it!

And, if you can’t, then tough! You are lacking in the something essential called an imagination. Go back to primary school and read a lot more picture books! When you have exhausted the book boxes in your classroom (give ‘The Gruffalo’ a go!), move onto Enid Blyton’s ‘The Enchanted Wood’ trilogy, then try out a few teenage dystopian novels (see my book review for the best), and then – and only then- make your purchase of ‘Melmoth’ from Waterstones online, via my link.

If you work your way through all of my suggestions, I may earn a tidy little commission for Waterstones – I live on in hope (so, Melmoth, get knotted!).


Copyright of review and first illustration owned by Jay Cool, October 2019

Image of ants on bridge, courtesy of


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Published by The Silly-Savvy Salopian

Freelance writer and descendant of the cave dweller and outlaw, Humphrey Kynaston. Banished from Shropshire for my eccentricity, I have made my home in Suffolk. I write poetry, short stories, travel journals, comedy gig reviews and non-fiction articles. My wish is to write my way back into the heart of my birth land. All writing commissions (and free holidays in Shropshire!) considered.

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