Jessamine Luxton has lived all her sixteen years in an isolated cottage near Alnwick Castle, with little company apart from the plants in her garden. Her father, Thomas, a feared and respected apothecary, has taught her much about the incredible powers of plants: that even the most innocent-looking weed can cure — or kill.
When Jessamine begins to fall in love with a mysterious boy who claims to communicate with plants, she is drawn into the dangerous world of the poison garden in a way she never could have imagined . . .”
There are words I adore for their mouse trap quality; their ability to trip a visceral reaction, springing sights, sounds, emotions or memories in my mind. Apothecary is one of those words, and it was but one of the hooks that initially snagged my interest in The Poison Diaries. Having grown up in a family that strongly believed in the healing properties of plants and herbs provided further motivation to pick it up. Plus, topping off at 278 pages, I thought it might be a quick read, and that was just what I was wanting at the time. The Poison Diaries is a quick read and at times an interesting one; I’d hesitate to say it’s entirely successful, though.
I was immediately drawn into the world Jessamine inhabits, her days filled with little else beside chores and waiting on her father’s presence and moods, living an isolated life, relying on her own voice for company. Coupled with her sweet nature, Jessamine’s loneliness and longing compel sympathy, and she’s certainly a likeable character if not a fully realized one. As a result of her role as the narrator and a particular plot point – her father zealously guards his knowledge of plants, those that help and those that harm – the focus on the use of plants for medicinal purposes and their history is somewhat limited, or perhaps I should say it may be that I wanted more of that aspect than was given. Once Weed is introduced into the story, the reader is privy to more information about the plants Jessamine’s father uses in teas and poultices, but other complications arise.
Here again, love blooms a bit too quickly between strangers. Weed is an enigma – to both the reader and Jessamine – for much of the story, and while I could understand an immediate attraction, claims of love are harder to swallow. That’s not to say that the relationship isn’t sweet, because tenderness is evident in several of their exchanges, as is caring, but this is another case in which the girl questions the boy’s morality/humanity while admitting that she does not want to live without him. In any event, their relationship plays a pivotal role in the resolution of the story, and the end is where several of my reservations about it come into play.
For one, the villain was all too obvious, and from very early on, as was the motivation behind the actions. For another, there’s this…trippy development that, poison or no, was just sort of strange. Sure, it may have aligned with the big revelation behind Weed’s character, but still, strange. And the ending was abrupt. Honestly, my attention waned throughout the last quarter of the novel, which turned that abrupt ending into an unsatisfying one for me.
If you’re looking for something a little different, a twist on the common paranormal tropes, The Poison Diaries might fit the bill. I can’t say I liked it – or disliked it – but it’s easily read and offers some interesting bits.