Kill or cure

The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood (and the Duchess of Northumberland).

The Duchess of Northumberland is the mastermind behind the wonderful Alnwick Garden adjoining her family’s ancestral pile, Alnwick Castle, in Northumberland. I visited last year and found it a wonderful attraction. One of the (many) highlights of the Garden is the Duchess’ special project – The Poison Garden. Every plant within is toxic, visitors can only go through the big locked gates bedecked with skull and crossbones,  in small groups.  While the gates are impressive, most of the plants within look rather ordinary, yet there is a thrill to be had from knowing their dangers!

The Duchess had an idea for a book based on her garden and some historic stories of poisonings. Teen author Maryrose Wood wrote the book – and the result is The Poison Diaries, (which has a nice website here).

The book has a great tagline “In the right dose, everything is a poison … even love.” – so the scene is set for romance with a sting in the tail.

Jessamine’s father is a skilled apothecary.  He is obsessed with finding out the botanical formulae to make a cureall which means he has little time for his daughter, he too has a poison garden kept behind locked gates into which Jessamine is forbidden to go. Jessamine who has grown up with just her father Thomas for company has had a hard and lonely life, but all this is about to change.  Firstly, her father agrees to take on a helper.  Weed – a wild and unruly orphan boy shows a natural, even supernatural, ability with plants, and Thomas begins to envy his skills.  As time passes, Thomas can’t avoid noticing that Jessamine is no longer a young girl but blossoming into a beautiful young woman; Weed has seen this too, and  likewise, Jessamine is experiencing a stirring in her heart for Weed.  Weed’s skills with dangerous plants comes at a cost though, in his mind deadly Oleander is calling to him. 

I’ve been recommended this book by both adults and teenagers.  Although you’ll only find it in the teen section, I found it to be an excellent read, and challenging at times too – I love it that a YA novel can give enough substance to make it enjoyable for all readers.  There were plenty of Shakespearean echoes, from Romeo and Juliet to Hamlet, and I learned a surprising amount about toxic plants along the way.  I particularly liked the way the plants ‘talked’ to Weed – was it real, or was it just in his mind?  

This is the first in a planned trilogy.  I hope the other two live up to the intoxicating promise of the first. (9/10)  I bought this book.

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To buy this book from Amazon.co.uk click below:
The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood
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0 thoughts on “Kill or cure

  1. LizF says:

    I would have loved a book like this when I was a teenager! Actually I will probably go and look out for it even now – I have bought quite a few books ostensibly for my daughter and then read them myself before I gave them to her!

  2. Although we now live not too far from Alnwick we have yet to visit the castle and garden, even though it has been high on the list of places to visit! I wasn’t even aware there is a Poison Garden.

    I don’t normally read YA books, but this one sounds a MUST.

    • gaskella says:

      You must go Margaret. The garden was wonderful – we had lunch in the treehouse (you may need to book). Combining garden and castle took the whole day – highly recommended. (Plus Barter Books is just half a mile or less down the road!)

      • We’re going to Alnwick in a few week’s time (D has a hospital visit) so I hope they’re still open then, after we’ve been in BB first of course. We nearly bought a house just up the road from BB but even with that attraction we decided against it!

  3. Ooh, this looks good. I’m going to look for it next time I visit a bookshop. And what an interesting garden! I know there’s a Chelsea Physic Garden in London for apothecaries but didn’t know there was such a think as a poison gardens. Exciting.

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