The most entertaining yet substantial historical novel since Joseph O'Connor's Star of the Sea' Irish Times
The Herbalist is the electrifying first novel from Niamh Boyce, winner of the 2012 Hennesssy XO Award for New Irish Writing. it is a devastating and emotional story of yearning and obsession in 1930s rural Ireland.
Out of nowhere the herbalist appears and sets up his stall in the market square. Teenager Emily is spellbound by the exotic stranger - here is a man of the world who won't care that she's not respectable.
However, Emily has competition for the herbalist's attentions. It seems the women of her small town are all mesmerized by the visitor who, they say, can perform miracles.
When Emily discovers the miracle-worker's dark side, her world turns upside down. She may be naive, but she has a fierce sense of right and wrong. With his fate lying in her hands, Emily must make the biggest decision of her young life. To make the herbalist pay for his sins against the women of the town? Or let him escape to cast his spell on another place?
He just appeared one morning and set up shop in the market square… the one they called the black doctor.
He wore a pale 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, unguents even. They sold like hotcakes, like they were going out of style. I snuck into town the first chance I got, to see him with my own eyes…’
Teenager Emily has a life that wouldn’t inspire much other than visions of escape. Growing up on the margins of polite society in a rural Irish town in the 50s means her prospects are limited. Her family life is crumbling, her opportunities diminishing by the day and yet conversely her dreams are only growing bigger...more...