Book Review: The Hemlock Cure by Joanne Burn

What the blurb says…

Based on the real history of an English village during the Great Plague, The Hemlock Cure is an utterly beguiling tale of fear and ambition, betrayal, self-sacrifice and the unbreakable bond between two women.

Isabel Frith, the village midwife, walks a dangerous line with her herbs and remedies. There are men in the village who speak of witchcraft, and Isabel has a past to hide. So she tells nobody her fears about Wulfric, the pious, reclusive

Mae, Wulfric’s youngest daughter, dreads her fathers rage if he discovers what she keeps from him. Like her feelings for Rafe Isabel’s ward or the fact that she studies from Wulfric’s books at night.

But others have secrets too. Secrets darker than any of them could have imagined.

When Mae makes a horrifying discovery, Isabel is the only person she can turn to. But helping Mae Will place them both in unimaginable peril.

And meanwhile another danger is on its way from London. One that threatens to engulf them all…

What I say…

The Hemlock Cure by Joanne Burn is published 10th February by Sphere. Thank you to Millie Seaward for my gifted copy.

The story of Eyam and the sacrifice of the villagers when faced with the plague outbreak is well documented. And it is a story that has taken on even greater resonance in light of the past two years.

Within The Hemlock Cure Joanne Burn returns to this familiar tale but looks at it with eyes anew. With skill and empathy she looks beyond the contagion itself and focuses on the lives of people who lives there; particularly the lives of the women. Lives that are beautifully drawn and brought to life. From the very first pages the reader connects with their story and motivations and the reader wants to understand their pain.

This is a story which looks at the unusual, the overlooked and the unseen. It gives the skilled women of the village their credit and their voice. In the face of religious oppression and twisted logic, we see the bonds of female voices whispering softly to each other, providing support and helping each other through.

This is a story of reshaping the hand you have been given and working within the boundaries of what is possible to find another way. It is a lesson in how to hide the forbidden in plan sight and to find understanding and empathy in the most unexpected way.

Beautifully plotted and cleverly told The Hemlock Cure is essential historical reading this spring.

Rachel x