Wednesday, 2 October 2013

" The Herbalist " by Niamh Boyce

Having read some wonderful reviews in National Newspapers, I quickly placed an order for this book.  The first thing that struck me was the beautiful cover. The contents just blew me away!

The Herbalist is inspired by real events but is a work of fiction.

Set in 1930s Ireland, the novel centers around Emily, a teenager who is mesmerized by the arrival of The Herbalist, a kind of exotic pharmacist, who makes up wild and wonderful potions and lotions for the people of the town.  The ladies in particular, are fascinated with not only the goods for sale, but the whole concept of the dark and mysterious character.  The men are not so sure, and maybe with good reason.

" He just appeared one morning and set up shop in the market square.  It was drizzling. Everything was either a shade of brown or a shade of grey.  He was the lightest thing there, the one they called the black doctor.  He wore a place suit, a straw hat and waved his arms like a conductor.  The men spat about dark crafts and foreign notions, but the women loved him. Oh, the rubs, potions, tinctures and lotions he had. "

Carmel and Dan Holohan run the local grocers shop and have suffered a terrible tragedy.  Emily is called in to help them part time and soon becomes enthralled with the goings on in the town.  When a more permanent girls arrives to work in the shop, Emily is not impressed.  She watches from a distance and starts spending more time with The Herbalist. She sees and hears things that do not seem quite right and a darker side to this unusual man becomes obvious.  

This is a debut novel of such a high caliber......The writing is fluid, gripping and almost seems coated with expensive, scented oils.  So observant, witty, warm and endearing,  I just did not want it to end.  I hated closing the back cover and knowing that was the last I would read about the characters.
The women in the book are the heart of the story. Although the character of The Herbalist is based on a real person, without the supporting roles of the town's women and their unique tales, the whole package could have been so different.
Carmel, Emily and Sarah, the new shop girl have stunning plots lines and page by page, chapter by chapter we are brought along at a steady pace through their lives in this small Irish town.

I highly recommend this book to lovers of Sebastian Barry, Anne Enright and Maggie O' Farrell.         
Niamh Boyce is up there with the best of the best in Irish Fiction. 

The Herbalist is published by Penguin and is now available in paperback and e-book.

You can order a copy of The Herbalist, with Free Worldwide Postage, here,  or get the ebook version via amazon link below:


  1. Great Review! I am going to buy this book. x

    1. It is well worth getting - proud to have it in my library :)


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