5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Knot (Hardcover)
What happens when a man sees clearly how he can benefit humanity but is less perceptive of the needs of those around him? Henry Lyte's great work and his contribution to English botany is the translation of a herbal into English, the idea being that even the poorest English people can find comfort and cures 'in their owne, or their neighbors fields', along with the planting of a magnificent herb garden on his own estate. While this is a noble ambition, at the heart of the book's appeal lies the tension between scholar and husband, the achievements of the one set against the faultiness of the other. Henry fails to take fully into account his wife's fearfulness and his stepmother's malice: he feels more in command as he combats slugs in the lilies and mice among his papers, storing up trouble as he does so. Borodale's wonderful, immersive grasp of the period means that everything in the novel feels lived rather than invented. She has obviously researched her subject in depth but without ever hitting the reader over the head with her knowledge. What comes over most, to me, is the vulnerability of humans at that time, beset by natural forces such as disease and accident, and their touching awareness of the fleeting preciousness of life. By the end of the book I was bound up in the loves, fears, truces and triumphs of the Lyte family and sorry to leave them.