Reading The Fair Botanists has been my latest fascinating journey back in time. I’m grateful I had the chance to fling away to Edinburgh back then, in 1822, at a time of cultural brilliancy and great change.
As I am fond of Scotland, the 19th century, historical fiction and - why not? - flowers and perfumes, how could I not enjoy Sara Sheridan’s latest novel?
And when they are revealed, they can carry the greatest of consequences.
I love when you smell, touch and clearly see in your inward eye – quoting one of my favourite Romantic poets, Wordsworth - what the words narrate and describe. Well, it practically means I love when a story is very well written. I appreciate even more when I can recognize research, accuracy and respect behind the good story-telling. You find all that in The Fair Botanists.
The cast of compelling characters is led by two charming heroines, Elizabeth and Belle, and include illustrious historical figures you’ll be delighted to meet in Sheridan’s lively portrayals. Just one name for them all, Sir Walter Scott.
But you’ll also be intrigued by less famous real-life characters like William McNab and Robert Graham, whose well-documented stories have been interwoven with the fictional lives of many of the characters, obtaining an interesting, multi-layered, lively picture.
I was hooked by the mystery and the secrets, engaged by the historical references and the social issues hinted at, charmed by the flowers and the perfumes, entertained by the lively style, titillated by the romantic liaisons.
I’m sure you’ll love Elizabeth and Belle and their adventures. I hope they’ll stay with you, in Sara Sheridan’s words, “as an echo of our foremothers and the lives they might have lived, for history is endlessly complicated and full of secrets, and in my view is as much herstory as his one”.
MORE PRAISE FOR THE FAIR BOTANISTS
Among the real life characters you meet in The Fair Botanists, botanist Henrietta Liston has a lovely cameo role. Lady Liston returned from her residency in the Ottoman Empire to Edinburgh society in the winter of 1821. Follow the link below the portrait and read how Sara Sheridan imagined Henrietta's meeting with one of the heroines of her novel, Belle Brodie.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sara Sheridan is an Edinburgh-based novelist who writes cosy crime noir mysteries set in 1950s Brighton and historical novels based on the real-life stories of late Georgian and early Victorian explorers. She has also written for children – her picture book I’m Me has appeared on CBeebies three times – and occasionally takes on commercial non-fiction project including writing the companion guide to the ITV series, Victoria: Victoria and Albert: A Royal Love Affair (2017) and Sanditon (2019).