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4.8 out of 5 stars33
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 23 September 2010
This is much more than a novel; it is also a rivetting social commentary on England in general and Westmorland in particular in the mid to late 17th century. Apart from being a super read with emotive cameos and convincing characterisation it is also the product of in depth research which accurately resurrects the countryside of a rural community steeped in folklore. The countryside plants, their properties and location come alive alongside the brutality and pragmatism of a hierarchical society. This novel deals with life and death matters, religious divisions. affairs of the heart,life at sea before the days of luxury travel and the glorious interweaving of the human condition.In some ways it is larger than life and at other times lost in the minutiae of country concerns; both scenarios are made equally compelling. This book is a must for all readers looking for something out of the ordinary but grippingly alive.
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on 12 August 2010
Historical fiction is not what I usually read, but I found Deborah Swift's book impossible to put down - I read it in one session ending at 4am. The plot is uncomplicated but so gripping that I just had to know the end. What sustained my interested was not just the plot, but the attention to detail, the book was like a video in my head, I could see the scenes, hear the voices, sense the colours of that time in history.

This is an excellent first novel. Well done DeborahThe Lady's Slipper (Macmillan New Writing). I'll definitely read the next one.
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on 17 October 2010
A fabulous book that gently draws you into the characters's lives and then has you eagerly turning the pages to find out their fate.

Deborah Swift's style of writing is fresh and elegant in its simplicity. Her love and knowledge of history is clear to see in the pages of her book; I can't wait to read her next novel.
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Whilst I'm known for loving a trip in time with authors like Philippa Gregory, I'm not usually that enamoured of a lot of the historical fiction female writers as they either don't have enough detail within their work or they let it all fall apart with the characters electing to let strong men lead rather than taking the bull by the horns.

What this title from Deborah does restores my fair and gave me a great lead character in the form of Alice Ibbetsen who I grew to care about and like from the get go and then also loved to see what she'd get up to in the tale as it unfurled. Add to this some great prose, some great descriptiveness and of course a plot that focus' on story rather than a huge cast that made this an intimate title that the reader was allowed to share. Wonderfully written and a book I'd recommend to anyone who wants something special either for a birthday present or a special gift.
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on 22 October 2011
Set in a rural village, in turbulent times, with several powerful characters, including.....

Alice, still in mourning for her young sister, becomes obsessed with the idea that she is the only person who can save The Lady's Slipper and breed more for the orchid's future.

Thomas - Alice's husband who was kind enough to marry Alice and take on her young sister, Flora.

Wheeler, former soldier who has given up his luxurious lifestyle and vowed to live as a peaceful Quaker.

Sir Geoffrey Fisk, patron to Alice and land owner in the village. He has history with Wheeler.

Stephen, Sir Geoffrey's son who has not been quite the son he wanted.

Alice, caught up in the grief of losing her dear sister, steals the only Lady's Slipper growing on the land of her neighbour Richard Wheeler, but she is not the only one interested in the orchid.

So begins a series of fateful events caused by the residents of Westmorland, which include adultery, a murder, and one of the villagers, wrongly, being sentenced to the gallows for the murder. Each have their own selfish intentions, and little regard for each other's well-being or fate. It was quite disturbing how little regard these characters had, for their own people, at times but made for a gripping read.

It was very interesting to read the comparisons between Quakers and the gentry and how their beliefs and lifestyles differed.

The author is a costume designer and this comes through in her writing with fabulous description of the clothing of the period and the difference in dress from the kitchen maid, to the Quakers to the Lord of the Manor. I really enjoyed the detail the author used to describe the sights, sounds and flavours of the period. At times I almost felt I was there and got caught up in the frightening, out of control situations that characters were finding themselves in.

Behind the beautiful cover and delicate title lies a powerful story not to be missed.

5 out of 5 for me!
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on 30 March 2011
The combination of a naturalist interest (rare orchid) and a period one (17th century Quakerism) was too much to resist for me here. I often find myself reading these sorts of books mentally cataloguing all the mistakes / anachronisms, and in fact there are many to be found here (not addressing a nobleman correctly, drinking from a water butt, leaving cards, sterilising instruments, women's freedom of movement, a gentleman asking a maid her name - they turn up everywhere) yet I find that in this case I forgive them all happily, because it is a genuinely engrossing story, with characters you can get interested in. Is it not though perhaps something of a cliché, I wondered, to build around a tension between a skinny thoughtful middle-class heroine and her buxom, sexually-aggressive maid?

A more serious fault perhaps is the fuzzy, or shifting, focus: the woman who is the main character for the first third of the book (that skinny thoughtful lass I mentioned) promptly disappears for the middle section, which could be confusing. And then, for the final third, she reappears, but we leave the muddy fields and woods of Westmorland and the book suddenly turns into a swash-buckling, bodice-ripping, ship-board romance. Which is fine by me, I really enjoyed it, but I wonder whether some readers might get a little lost? Anyway, I sound critical, but actually, I liked this book a lot. A quiet, bitter-sweet finale rounds the whole thing off well, and though I think it should have had some more editing (well, some editing in the first place) I'd happily recommend it.
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on 15 December 2010
It's amazing that the theft of one little harmless orchid could set off a series of happenings that will turn three lives upside down!

Alice is still in deep mourning over the death of her little sister Flora and has grown moody, introverted and spends most of her time among her paints and flower paintings. When Richard Wheeler shows her the rare Lady's Slipper orchid growing on his land, she feels she must save it and ensure its survival.

But Alice is not the only one with a plan for the orchid.

Richard Wheeler, a former member of the Puritan army who has given up his money and possessions to become a Quaker and live more peacefully after the horrors of war believes the orchid should stay where God placed it and Sir Geoffrey Fisk, a nobleman and land owner who has a painful skin condition wants the flower for medicinal purposes.

But possessing the orchid does not come at a cheap price as these three will come to find out and will leave one fighting for their life and another losing their sanity.

The unique plot of The Lady's Slipper is what initially made me want to read it (plus the great cover) and it did not disappoint! Deborah Swift has written an engaging novel about life in England after Cromwell, the Quakers, and a rare flower that changed the lives of those who came in contact with it. I can definitely recommend this book and am very much looking forward to reading Swift's next work, The Gilded Lily!
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on 25 October 2010
Was delighted to follow a story which needed research and knowledge of the historic time. I enjoyed the mystery of the tale unfolding. Not predictable.
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on 18 November 2010
From the first page, the world of The Lady's Slipper came to life for me. The meticulous recreation of seventeenth century England is a constant delight, but there is never a feeling of research being included for its own sake. Narrative, characters and descriptions fit seamlessly together, giving the reader a real sense of 'being there'. So I could not help but care deeply about what happened and I found myself reading quickly and late into the night. I turned the last page, came back into the real world and immediately decided that I'd have to reread to catch any details I'd missed.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 8 November 2015
Wonderful, wonderful, I adored this book. I read the stand alone sequel over a year ago, always meaning to get to this too, and the author very kindly sent me a review copy. I loved it so much I think I might have to read the sequel (The Gilded Lily) again!

The story is told most adeptly from many points of view: Alice, Richard, Margaret (I loved her section) and the troubled Geoffrey Fisk; also his son, Stephen, who begins to reject his upbringing in favour of the ways of the Quakers, the sly maid, Ella, and a couple of others. Each character was so well portrayed that I could imagine him/her immediately. The plot is unusual and well thought out, the strands work together so smoothly. I was completely absorbed in the past while reading this, taking it slowly, stopping to imagine the setting. A bonus was the part on board ship at the end; I've long been fascinated by seafarers of this time

Love, love, love Deborah Swift's writing; I'm just sad that I've read all her books now, and have to wait for her to write another!
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