The Hemlock Cure by Joanne Burn

Posted On 21 February 2022

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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


Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Hemlock Cure by Joanne Burn

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : The Hemlock Cure by Joanne Burn.  This is a book set in a village riddled by plague in 1665 and is a fictional story based on true events.  


It is 1665 and the women of Eyam keep many secrets.

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 apothecary.

Mae, Wulfric’s youngest daughter, dreads her father’s 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 . . .

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.

Expected publication : February 2022