Molly Cutpurse

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The Herb Girl

ISBN 978-1-291-90618-9

Published: February 2010

Republished 2014

Print Length:266 pages

Language: English

The Herb Girl is a novel about the great divide, the complication that may be the after-life and our relationship with it, and what we think it could be.

Through a damning gypsy's curse, a Scots-born female rogue, savage inexplicable accidents, murder and two of the oldest sexual dysfunctions known to civilisation, The Herb Girl chronicles a few months in the life and close family of a bewitching, heavily-pregnant, Cornish-bred herbalist, whose life is not entirely guiltless.

Besides a story, it is also a succession of events, lies, discussions and an unwholesome pointer to the mystery of what may lie in wait for us after we die: you can trust the chronicler or you can trust yourself. Can you even trust this description?

The Herb Girl is a self-contained maze, a story of passion and determination involving poisoning, manslaughter, spiritualism, explosives and rage. But who is the narrator? What is his abhorrent secret and why is he so personally judgmental?

Its style is deliberately capricious. Since language is a living expression of thought and writing is a graphic expression of the same, in The Herb Girl, words are used to form speed bumps and incursions, to introduce disinformation and to interrupt the normal smooth flow of consciousness. Yet, the story itself is lucid and manageable.

The intention, to a degree, is to introduce confusion; for the reader to feel there is something askew outside of the flat words on the paper, as well as reflecting the maze that is the main subject matter; the afterlife.

Trusting an author's use of words is paramount, but in The Herb Girl there is a deliberate lack of assurance. The sensation of the novel is abstract; to reflect the subject and therefore, distractions, untruths and deceptions abound throughout.

Words are deliberately and unusually used, and placed in order to cause the reader’s world, not the world on the paper, to reel.

eBook or paperback, you can trust;

5 out of 5 stars.

intricate ingenious social story set in Edwardian times

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 7 July 2012

This book is not easy to summarize. it's a complex tale centering around a retired seaman and the unfortunate people who have to put up with him. but that's only part of it. the story fizzes and sparkles like a box of fireworks thrown onto a fire.

It's Edwardian England; we have a young girl, an expert in herbs, cauterizing the hand of a lad who has burned off two of his fingers in a prank gone wrong; a young husband cut in half by an accident at work; the old seaman thinks he may have the clap... and now his wife is starting to realize that she's not well... that's only the first 7 chapters (there are 65).

The story is intricate, well-researched (there's an entire page on hemlock), ingenious, twisty, vivid, quirky, oddly observant, and fascinating. now i'm wondering which of molly's other novels to try ....

Nigel Sutton