The Botanist’s Daughter by Kayte Nunn
Publishing Date: 18th April 2019
Source: Received from the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 390
Genre: Historical Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)
A buried secret…
Present day: Anna is focused on growing her new gardening business and renovating her late grandmother’s house. But when she discovers a box hidden in a wall cavity, containing water colours of exotic plants, an old diary and a handful of seeds, she finds herself thrust into a centuries-old mystery. One that will send her halfway across the world to Kew Gardens and then onto Cornwall in search of the truth.
A lady adventurer…
1886: Elizabeth Trebithick is determined to fulfil her father’s dying wish and continue his life’s work as an adventurer and plant-hunter. So when she embarks on a perilous journey to discover a rare and miraculous flower, she will discover that the ultimate betrayal can be found even across the seas…
Two women, separated by centuries. Can one mysterious flower bring them together?
In Victorian England, Elizabeth Trebithick is to continue after his death her father’s search for a very rare and dangerous plant in Chile. A plant that has the power to heal but also to – in inappropriate hands – to kill. It is of course unknown for women in this era to travel around the world, but Elizabeth is determined, and together with her maid Daisy sets off on a journey. A journey that will bring many changes to her life, but also a journey that is full of danger – Elizabeth is aware that she needs to find the plant before another pioneering botanist of those days will find it and sell it to the highest bidder.
In 2017 in Sydney, Anna Jenkins’s grandmother has recently died and left her granddaughter a house that Anna is right now renovating. She discovers a notebook, a mysterious metal box and inside she finds wonderfully preserved book of watercolour sketches of plants, a photograph and a bag of seeds. Here starts another journey – to discover the owner of the paintings and the truth about the seeds, and so Anna travels to Cornwall, where more family truths and secrets are being unearthed.
As it usually happens, Elizabeth, in Victorian England, was a much more colourful and quirky heroine that Anna in the present, and her story had pepper, as well as she had. She was ahead of her times in the way she was thinking and venturing on the journey, but there was also feminine side to her. She was determined and passionate.
There were more layers to Anna that we could think at the beginning, and yes, in comparison to Elizabeth she could be perceived as the weaker one but I think we should give her a chance, as there are many personal issues waiting to be unpacked. I had a feeling that the more she was discovering, the more open she became, and grew in confidence, and this is what she needed so much. Anywise, the author has captured both characters’ personalities in a great way, she outlined them really well. But we also can’t forget Daisy, Elisabeth’s servant, the unsung heroine of the tale. She was so loyal, always in the background but you could always count on her and the promise to Elizabeth was immediately honoured.
This story is told in dual frame narrative, and we travel through times and the world, from 1800’s Cornwall and Chile and back to Sydney in 2017. I enjoyed all of the settings, Kayte Nunn can truly bring her settings and characters to life but I think that it was Chile that was the most colourful, exotic and it simply swept me away. The way the story intertwined and played out was absolutely brilliantly done, I loved how the subplots were merged together and the author has connected them masterfully.
This book had a great feeling to it, it was simply a joy to read it. I’m not going to consider if Anna was a disgrace to today’s feminism, oh no, because I’ve seen the biggest picture and I’ve appreciated the story on the whole. Yes, sometimes the descriptions of the flora were perhaps too detailed and took too much pages but it was about the botanist’s daughter, so of course we could expect them in this novel. You can easily see that the author knows what she’s writing about – she herself has a personal interest in botany, and it reflects in the story through the passionate and vivid descriptions of all kinds of flowers. I am not a person with green thumbs, unfortunately, but the way the plant based medicines, the botanical medicine gaining momentum were described was very interesting, not too academic but with a passion and love.
“The Botanist’s Daughter” just hit the right note for me. Maybe it was not full of life – changing twist but there was enough adventure to keep me glued to the pages, and there was a moment or two that simply made me gasp and say out loud “oh no…!” The story moves along fast and briskly, the characters are vivid and coming to life on the pages and they have depth to them, there is a lovely romance or two and a great family mystery. It was brilliantly researched and the botanical details was plenty and lush, and what’s most important, it was absolutely not predictable – there are some tips and ties but I can only say this now, looking back, as they were really well hidden. It was surprising how dark it was during some parts, but it only added tons of significance and depth to the story. This book was a brilliant cross of historical fiction and present in dual narration and it simply ticked all the boxes for me. And let’s not forget the gorgeous cover of the book. It’s exquisite, with beautiful birds and flowers and blue. Highly recommended!
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