It has been years since Helen Franklin left England. In Prague, working as a translator, she has found a home of sorts—or, at least, shelter. That changes when her friend Karel discovers a mysterious letter in the library, a strange confession and a curious warning that speaks of Melmoth the Witness, a terrifying legend found in obscure fairy tales and antique village lore. As such superstition has it, Melmoth travels through the ages, dooming those she persuades to join her to a damnation of timeless, itinerant solitude. To Helen it all seems the stuff of unenlightened fantasy.
But, unaware, as she wanders the cobblestone streets Helen is being watched. And then Karel disappears . . .
Spanning several continents and centuries, Melmoth is a masterpiece of Gothic storytelling. Here, Sarah Perry revisits the thematic territory of The Essex Serpent to deliver an incandescent and breathtakingly original exploration of the clash of faith and reason; the tension between obligation and reserve; love’s boundless gravity and the terror of engagement. Yet Melmoth is a massive step forward, too, a novel of greater ambition, depth and immediate resonance than anything Perry has written before. Through time and space, she presents an unforgettable cast of characters, including Helen and her circle of friends (and one not-so-friendly acquaintance) in contemporary Prague; a blossoming young woman in 1930s Cairo; a junior Ottoman bureaucrat during World War I; a child in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia; a young man caring for his severely ill brother in a Manila hospital; and a desperate refugee from Zaire, precariously seeking shelter in 2017 London. And at the center is a strange being of indeterminate age, seemingly centuries old, that seems to have Helen as its target. But why?