Time for a book review methinks. So if thou wilt follow me let me introduce thee to the wonderful debut novel of Deborah Swift “The Lady’s Slipper” (2010, Macmillan New writing, London. ISBN 9780230746879).
In 1660 Alice Ibbotson of Westmorland risks everything to collect for propagation the rarest of British orchids the Lady’s Slipper. By stealing onto the property of ex-soldier turned Quaker Richard Wheeler to lift the plant Alice sets herself on a path from which there is no going back.
Through this one act Alice is estranged from Thomas her husband, becomes disenchanted with her botanical patron Sir Geoffrey Fisk and through the machinations of housemaid Ella could forfeit her life for the murder of herbalist and wise woman Margaret Poulter.
The story is largely set in Westmorland against the backdrop of a country struggling to heal the wounds of civil war. It is an era of suspicion, fear and intolerance.
I never met either of my grandmothers they both died when my parents were young. My mother’s mum had been a Quaker and I have always been interested in this thoughtful and peaceful religion. Deborah captures the early days of Quakerism when this radical pacifist movement was considered a dangerous hotbed of dissent needing to be stamped out and ridiculed. In times of political and religious violence a belief in peaceful resolution is a brave stance, where fear is coupled with bigotry it is a dangerous one.
It’s exciting to read a story set in your home county. Even more so when that county is called by its old name of Westmorland – rather than the bland Cumbria by which it is known today. Deborah has an incredible eye for detail enabling the reader to visualise, smell, hear and touch, the heady mix that was turbulent seventeenth century life.
Eager to follow the adventures of Alice and Richard through this atmospheric and cracking tale the pages turned all too quickly. With relief I am glad to see that Swift has published more books so it won’t be long before I immerse myself in “The Gilded Lily” and then “A Divided Inheritance”.
Until next we meet, Moke x
PS To read Deborah Swift’s blog follow this link https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3297217.Deborah_Swift/blog