The Poison Diaries has always called to me. I’ve seen it so many times in the book store and for whatever reason, have resisted its charms. Finally, I could take it no longer and bought the book knowing almost nothing about the plot. In fact, sometimes I think it is better to wait to read a book after you’ve bought it so that you can forget all the things you’ve already learned about it. Anyway, I digress. I’m not sure what I was expecting from this book but I can tell you that it was very entertaining and very easy to read - I finished it in 2 hours. Here’s the synopsis:
“Jessamine has spent her whole life in a cottage close to her father's apothecary garden, surrounded by medicinal plants and herbs that could kill her -- although her father has never allowed her into the most dangerous part of the grounds... the poison garden. And so she's never had reason to be afraid -- until now. Because now a newcomer has come to live with the family, a quiet but strangely attractive orphan boy named Weed. Though Weed doesn't say much in words, he has an instant talent for the apothecary's trade, seeming to possess a close bond with the plants of the garden. Soon, he and Jessamine also share a close bond. But little does Jessamine know that passion can be just as poisonous as the deadliest plants in the garden...”
I have to admit that whilst I love plants, flowers and gardens, I definitely do not have a green thumb. I can kill house plants quicker than anyone I know and not from neglect or anything sinister. I actually don’t know the reason which makes me a little sad, but I do admire anyone who can turn their hand to this kind of thing. My grandma used to know the names of every plant and flower we came across whilst walking across the fields together and I have never forgotten this. I think my love for all things green (even if I can’t look after them) helped me to enjoy this book and I absolutely loved the concept. I had no idea this was a historical novel and that the setting is very real. The Poison Diaries is based on a concept by the Duchess of Northumberland who actually resides within Alnwick Castle in Northumberland. In case you didn’t know, this is the castle used as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. The Duchess has a particular fondness for gardens and even has a real life poison garden which is probably where the idea came from although it was Maryrose Wood who penned the novel. The idea that plants can kill and cure is not new but I find it fascinating nonetheless and I really enjoyed how this came across in the book.
My favourite character was of course Weed who is the poor orphan boy that comes to live with Jessamine and her father. He has a lot of closely guarded secrets that he dare not share for fear of being labelled a freak. Eventually though, he is forced to explain his strange behaviour and face the fact that he may have to make the ultimate sacrifice for love. Whilst we got to know Weed as he is now throughout the book, I would really have liked to explore his history and where he came from. Are there others like him? Hopefully we will get to find out in future books.
Jessamine was sweet and we got a hint of her character when she stood up to her father who has to be one of the worst parents I’ve ever read about. He is solely focused on his potions to heal the sick which sounds noble in itself but this one track mindedness turns sinister and is going to cost him more than he could ever imagine.
The Poison Diaries is a refreshing read in a beautiful, real life setting. The concept of the book is fascinating and one I thoroughly enjoyed. All I can say is thank goodness there will be a sequel, entitled "Nightshade" and this is published in September, 2011.
The Poison Diaries was actually published back in 2006 but rebranded and the newest edition was printed in May 2010. To find out more about Maryrose Wood, click here and to find out more about The Poison Diaries, click here to access an interactive website. You can actually visit Alnwick Castle and the poison garden which you can find out about here.
As some of you may or not know, I recently won a poetry competition and the prize is an overnight stay in the castle and a visit to the poison garden itself! I’m terribly excited about this and hope to let you all know what happened after the event next week. If you’re interested, here is my poem:
Poisonous By Nature
You, who grow from the seeds of the earth,
Weaving your way through the ground you give birth
To a life that brings death to both man and beast,
An unstoppable force once your power is released.
But what if your poison could kill AND could cure,
In the smallest of doses, your death would ensure
That life could go on and with your last breath,
You’d know that you died the most glorious death.