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Genes Book Club - Book 2 Announcement

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GenesBookClub Advisor Report 1 Oct 2013 16:49

Hi everyone - A day late, but as promised we are now releasing the title of the second book for you to review as part of the Book Club. October's book will be The Herbalist by Niamh Boyce. If you would like to receive this book for free, all you have to do is send a message to the Book Club account (hover over our profile picture and click the 'send message' button). Contrary to our original T&C's, we will be picking people at random to receive this book from all of those who send us a message on or before Tuesday 8th October.

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 1930's 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 naïve, 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?

'An elegant morality tale about the inescapable strictures of women's lives ... Her publisher describes her as "a dazzling new voice". I cannot disagree' Sunday Times


Persephone Report 2 Oct 2013 07:00

Do you reckon the males of GR will like this one.. all the blokes I asked about the last one were not impressed?



GenesBookClub Advisor Report 2 Oct 2013 12:11

Hi Persie,

From the blurb it does seem to be aimed at the ladies, so I shall ask Penguin to make sure the next book is more generic.


GenesBookClub Advisor Report 2 Oct 2013 12:11

If anyone would like to read the first few pages to get a feel for the book, you can view them here http://cdn.genesreunited.co.uk/_Resources/uploads/TheHerbalist.PDF


Ladkyis Report 4 Oct 2013 11:08

After we have read the books can we register them on bookcrossing and then give them to someone else?


Angie Report 5 Oct 2013 02:19

:-D I love reading books ;-)


GenesBookClub Advisor Report 8 Oct 2013 12:57

Hi Ladkyis - We think that is a great idea. The book is yours to do anything you want with and we think it's great to pass books on.


Ladkyis Report 8 Oct 2013 17:25

Excellent! I have been a bookcrosser since 2004 so I will be registering ...


GenesBookClub Advisor Report 10 Oct 2013 17:24

The list of people to receive the latest book 'The Herbalist' has now been sent to Penguin. We will be in touch to let you know if you will be receiving a copy via personal message shortly.


Unknown Report 1 Nov 2013 19:09

The Herbalist.

This is a brilliant book, the writer describes events so well I can almost imagine I am in the setting, couldn't put it down.
I have given it to my friend up the road as it's the kind of novel she likes too. Hope there are more by this author??
Jenny Moore.


Ladkyis Report 1 Nov 2013 22:42

I haven't received mine yet


Neil Report 2 Nov 2013 09:43

I have had mine but it is tough going and very much another "woman's book". Maybe next month we might get something a bit more 'chap oriented' :-)


Lynda Report 2 Nov 2013 14:33

The Herbalist was an interesting book with unexpected events and sadness, it made me imagine the story being true and held your attention throughout.


Patricia Report 3 Nov 2013 15:26

I really enjoyed this book. It is well written and absorbing.
I felt that we really get to know the main characters who speak in their own voices and from their own point of view in each chapter.
The atmosphere and feel of the small town in '30's Ireland comes to life. At first we think it is all rural and simple but soon realise as the story around the herbalist develops that there are much darker and less innocent events under the surface.
I would definitely look out for other books by this author.


Kellie Report 4 Nov 2013 13:57

The Herbalist

It was slow reading to about chapter five, but only because I was absorbing the characters/storyline. After that I was totally gripped, torn between rushing to get to the end (I must confess, I did flick ahead several times to have a sneaky read), and also wanting to read every page slowly, so as not to miss the superb description and effortless dialogue.

Loved again, the parallel narrative/each characters point of view – the story weaved seamlessly. Aggie and Rose (from beyond the grave) was rather poignant. The conclusion was satisfying – all the loose ends tied up nicely.

I would definitely recommend this book, and will certainly be reading more work from this author.


Ladkyis Report 4 Nov 2013 15:04

I haven't had mine yet................. :-(


fuzzyducky82 Report 5 Nov 2013 12:50

The Herbalist - by Niamh Boyce

If i had to give this book a rating in stars i would have said at the beginning it was a 2 but at the end it was a 4.5/5.

The book has a bit of a very slow start but it all builds bit by bit helping to establish the characters and plot and within a few chapters it had me hook, line and sinker.

This book took me a weekend to read good thing the weather was bad as it was a perfect excuse to curl up and read this book.

The book has a bit of everything but the different relationships in the book was the parts i loved the most. I loved the fact that different characters points of view and stories were given a chance to flourish and it all slotted in together perfectly and wasnt bitty and confusing.

I have already recommended this book to friends and my mother in law has my copy and is about half way through it already.

Will be interesting to read another book by this author to see what else she has to offer.



Elizabeth Report 5 Nov 2013 17:36

Set in a small provincial Irish town, this beautifully written book displays the stark reality of life just as it happened in the restricted 1930s. It concentrates on the hardships of being female, at a time when hypocrisy small mindedness and intolerance prevailed.
Seen through the eyes of four very different women, feisty young Emily, pregnant Sarah, bitter and frustrated Carmel, and older Aggie who has had a hard and colourful life, the book tells their individual connecting stories. They are strong, vivid and brave, each deserving better from life.
Compelling and believable, they epitomise the struggles of many women, in a well paced story, which makes you want to keep turning the pages.
Each in their own way, hope to find the strength and will to escape the restrictions of their existence, so when a dark, mysterious man arrives in town, he seems to represent what they have all been waiting for.
He is a herbalist, their saviour, who sets up stall, drawing them in, the women of the town, young and old, vulnerable and strong, poor and better off. They convince themselves he has miraculous powers, using potions that will save them, or so they naively believe,
Against their longing for a better life, it is not surprising that they embrace this man of intrigue,& blinded by his charade, it takes a long time for them to discover that he is not all that he seems to be.
Sadly for some, it is too late, as he has inflicted unimaginable horrors, which when revealed by the gutsy Emily, eventually sees his downfall.
Most of the male characters, battle for attention and acceptance by their womenfolk, but are tightly bound by history and what is expected of them.They generally appear weak and insensitive, preferring to turn a blind eye, and even the bullies amongst them are like cowards.
The moving finale provides a much needed sense of optimism for the survivors,and for the reader too.
As I read, I was questioning my understanding and views on the rights of women, then as now, their courage, independence, expectations, acceptance and maternal role.
The author has written a powerful story, which is easy to recommend.


Gillian Report 5 Nov 2013 18:48

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Herbalist. I found the beginning a bit slow and did not like the way that the story moved back and forth between the four women. However, this method proved very effective as the tale moved towards its devastating but perhaps inevitable close.

Set in 1930's Ireland, the narrow lives and narrow attitudes of the time are portrayed vividly and our sympathies are directed to be solidly with the main protagonists, the women, of the story.

The herbalist himself is an exotic and complex character who brings some colour and excitement into the lives of the townswomen. Sadly, he turns into an abhorrent figure who acts as a catalyst for change, for good or ill, in the lives of the women who come knocking at his door.

It is a tale of sadness and hope, of kindness and cruelty, bravery and intolerance. which offers a good insight into the stultifying influences of church and society upon Irish women at that time.

I do have one criticism. A short appendix explaining how it was that unmarried pregnant women could be forcibly incarcerated in institutions such as the Magdalen Laundries might have be helpful. This fate is an ever present threat in the book. Before being too critical of Ireland it should be remembered that , during the same period, so called morally defective women could also be put in mental hospitals in England.


Lesley Report 10 Nov 2013 18:04

The Herbalist by Niamh Boyce.
As I compose my thoughts about this book, I realise how much enjoyed reading it and miss picking it up to read. Thank you for choosing it for us. I would not hesitate to recommend it and I look forward to reading more books by this author.
The story is told through the eyes of four women: Emily; Sarah; Carmel and Aggie. Within the first three chapters the reader gets a feeling that there is disharmony in this superficially close knit community. There is a tension and a sense that something evil is about to happen; or already has. Then for some pages the readers are lulled into a sense of calm as they learn more about the inhabitants of the town, so much so that one forgets those initial feelings of unease. Just when all seems to be well, one is shocked into the knowledge that really evil things have happened. The reader ponders who is a good person, who is bad, and is surprised. Superficially all seems well in the town, but underneath there is a rumbling of unpleasantness and hints that dreadful things have happened and continue to do so.
This is not a tale of simple folk going about their lives; it is a tale of the loss of innocence. The reader is led to believe that the arrival of Don Vikram Fernandes, a self-proclaimed herbalist, could be the reason for the increasingly unpleasant events, but later the reader is shocked to learn that this sleepy “small town” Ireland is not what it originally seemed as the inhabitants’ behaviour and dogma are exposed. The women in town were entranced by the new arrival and were soon flocking to his door to purchase his cure-all lotions and potions. But the reader learns that his skills are used in shocking ways and that he has little compassion for his patients.
The arrival of the herbalist and Sarah are thought to be the cause of the disharmony. But was this society breaking down before they arrived? Was the herbalist the catalyst for these changes or did he merely take advantage of them? The book explores the morality of the inhabitants, the lack of conscience and Christian conviction as well as a person’s ability to ignore and conceal unacceptable behaviour for the sake of one’s social standing.