Nominated by:

Galway County Library, Ireland

Publisher of nominated edition:

Doubleday, Ireland

The Herbalist

Niamh Boyce      

2015 Longlist

Out of nowhere the herbalist appears and sets out his stall in the market square. In this dull midlands town the exotic stranger brings glamour and excitement. The townspeople call him The Don and with his potions and lotions he seems to have a cure for all that ails them.

Teenager Emily is enchanted. In the herbalist she sees a Clark Gable to her Jean Harlow, a Fred to her Ginger – a man to make her forget her lowly status in this place where respectability is everything.

But Emily has competition for the herbalist’s attentions. The women of the town – the women from the big houses and their maids, the shopkeepers and their serving girls, those of easy virtue and their pious sisters – all seem mesmerised by this visitor who, they say, can perform miracles.

When Emily discovers the dark side of the man who has infatuated her all summer, once again her world turns upside down. She may be naive and full of foolish dreams, but she has a fierce sense of right and wrong. And with the herbalist’s fate lying in her hands she must make the biggest decision of her young life. To make him pay for his sins against the women of the town? Or let him escape to cast his spell on another town?

The Herbalist is a riveting story about the shadow side of Irish life – the snobbery, the fear of sex, the tragedy of women destroyed by social convention and the bravery of those who defied it. It is an unforgettable story from a rare new talent.

About the Author

Niamh Boyce is the 2012 Hennessy XO New Irish Writer of the Year and she has been shortlisted for the Francis McManus Short Story competition 2011, the Hennessy Literary Awards 2010, the Molly Keane Award 2010 and the WOW Award 2010. Originally from Athy, Co Kildare, Niamh lives with her family in Ballylinan, Co Laois.

Librarian’s Comments

A gripping story from Ireland’s past – 1930s.

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