The Hemlock Cure by Joanne Burn

Posted On 21 February 2022

Filed under Book Reviews
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My Five Word TL:DR Review : Mixed feelings for this one

The hemlock

The Hemlock Cure is a story set in 1665/6 in the village of Eyam. If you haven’t heard of Eyam you should go look it up.  Basically, during the 17th century, when the Bubonic Plague was sweeping across Europe rightly earning the name the ‘black death’ the villagers of Eyam, took the decision to quarantine their village to try and prevent the disease from spreading to neighbouring villages.  Whether the theory was sound or not is not known but during that period many of the villagers died.

As The Hemlock Cure begins the plague is travelling to the village, carried in a bolt of flea ridden cloth intended for the local tailor.  Pretty soon after it arrives the disease and death begins.

As the story starts we meet the key players.  A young girl called Mae who lives with her father, the village apothecary, Wulfric.  Isabel, the local midwife, her husband Johan and their children.  Between them there are a lot of secrets and lies.

Now, as I mentioned above, I had mixed feelings for this book.  On the one hand the writing is lovely, the attention to detail really pulls you into the way of life and there’s some lovely details about herbs and cures, etc.  The story hints at witchcraft and strong female friendships, although some of these unravel when the plague arrives. On the other hand I think I was expecting a storyline that focused more on the events that took place in Eyam after the village went into isolation.  As it is the story is essentially about Mae.  Mae desperately wants to apprentice with her father as an apothecary but Wulfric thinks otherwise.  It soon becomes apparent that Mae’s situation is precarious and that she needs to exercise a good deal of caution in order to stay safe.

I won’t say more about the plot at this point.

I have to hand it to the author, this is a beautiful book, the writing is lovely and although I had issues in some respects I didn’t struggle to complete the book.  It’s more that I was expecting something different which is totally on me to be honest.  As it is there is a mystery of sorts that is slowly revealed that certainly went in directions that I hadn’t anticipated.

Overall, I found this easy to read but I felt there were issues that prevented me from loving it.  The storyline itself felt a little fractured, I wasn’t convinced with the choice of one of the POVs and I found it difficult to really become attached to the characters for some reason.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 3.5 of 5 stars


2 Responses to “The Hemlock Cure by Joanne Burn”

  1. Tammy

    I’m not familiar with this, but I can see why you picked it up. It sounds good, even if it didn’t completely work out.

  2. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Lovely as the writing sounds, right now a story about plague does not look like a viable option – but maybe a couple of years from now…

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