The Botanist’s Daughter…
About the Book:
In Victorian England, headstrong adventuress Elizabeth takes up her late father’s quest for a rare, miraculous plant. She faces a perilous sea voyage, unforeseen dangers and treachery that threatens her entire family.
In present-day Australia, Anna finds a mysterious metal box containing a sketchbook of dazzling watercolours, a photograph inscribed ‘Spring 1886’ and a small bag of seeds. It sets her on a path far from her safe, carefully ordered life, and on a journey that will force her to face her own demons.
In this spellbinding botanical odyssey of discovery, desire and deception, Kayte Nunn has so exquisitely researched nineteenth-century Cornwall and Chile you can almost smell the fragrance of the flowers, the touch of the flora on your fingertips.
The Botanist’s Daughter by Kayte Nunn takes the reader back to a time and place where the interest in botanical medicine was gaining momentum. Plant based medicines, particularly the history of, is an interest of mine and when this novel popped up on my radar, I knew it was one I needed to read, especially once I found out about the author’s own passionate interest in botany. Usually, when an author has a passionate interest in the topic they are writing on, you can be assured you’re in for a good show. I highly recommend checking out Kayte’s Pinterest board on The Botanist’s Daughter. You can really see where she got much of her inspiration from and there’s a definite magic associated with seeing the novel come to life when you’re viewing all of the images she’s saved. Spending time looking at that was a great way to finish off this novel.
The Botanist’s Daughter is a time-slip narrative, or dual perspective if you prefer, where one character in the present day discovers a link to a person from the past and we become privy to two stories moving along within different eras. I absolutely loved this novel, both eras, both women, both journeys. It just hit the right note for me from the very beginning. The magic of finding a box with treasures from the past drew me in and held me captive. And the seeds! What a find, and how incredible that under Anna’s guiding green thumb, she got them to sprout after lying dormant for so long. It was this botanical aspect of the story that interested me the most. The quest for cuttings and seeds and the power of plants that stretches across the ages. More so though, the knowledge about the power of plants, because it’s one thing to have a plant that has useful properties, but it’s entirely another to understand its uses. Kayte tapped into this with intricate detail throughout this novel, highlighting how botanical art was also a source of information about the plants depicted, their origins and uses, the dangers and benefits. There was a lot more to this stream of art than pictures of pretty flowers.
“Anna was once again reminded of how extraordinarily long some plants had been around for, blooming, dying and blooming again across the centuries, seeds scattered on the wind, seedlings divided and shared, sold and replanted in foreign soil.”
The setting of Chile was vividly engaging and I applaud Kayte for how beautifully rendered this was. Likewise, Cornwall and Sydney both popped off the page, but it was the sections set in Chile that really swept me away. Our two leading ladies were a treat to spend time with, but if I’m honest, I preferred Anna, our modern day heroine to Elizabeth, our 19th century botanist. There was an arrogance to Elizabeth that proved to be her undoing. Throughout the story, her deception over her new friends and family unsettled me and it came as no surprise that this cost her dearly in the end. I lamented the fact that she hadn’t trusted in those around her when the true consequences of her stealth were realised. How easily things could have differed if she had confided in her husband and ensured he understood the danger that was lurking over them. But even she underestimated the greed associated with being the first botanist to bring a new and powerful plant out into the world. She miscalculated the urgency, and I think, to a certain degree, also felt guilty about the wrongness of what she was doing, which was essentially stealing a dangerous plant that she had obtained via means that were deceptive. My sense of foreboding that had been plaguing me was sadly realised but in a far more terrible way than I could have possibly envisaged. I did love Daisy, her loyal maid, who proved herself to be the most honourable and trustworthy of companions. Her steadfast promise to Elizabeth was honoured across the generations and I appreciated the way this linked the past with the present for Anna and her mother and sister. The way this story from the past played out was evidence of Kayte’s mastery over her own novel. She didn’t shy away from pulling the rug out from under us. It was a bold move, but it took The Botanist’s Daughter from being a good novel to a truly great one.
The Botanist’s Daughter is Kayte Nunn’s first novel of historical fiction and I have to say, she’s done a marvellous job of it. The novel moves along briskly with a full cast of characters, all doing their bit to tie the threads of this story together. We are treated to a spark of romance between Anna and a lovely gentleman who appears as the perfect match for her, but I do like how Kayte kept the focus on the family mystery and Anna’s journey to redefine her own life, rather than distracting from the main storyline with this romantic inkling. All in all, The Botanist’s Daughter is a novel that I recommend highly to lovers of historical fiction and all things botanical. The sumptuous cover with its beautiful images of birds and flowers extending into the inner jacket is equally as delightful as the story that it’s wrapped around.
Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing me with a copy of The Botanist’s Daughter for review.
About the Author:
Kayte Nunn is a former book and magazine editor, and the author of two contemporary novels, ROSE’S VINTAGE and ANGEL’S SHARE. THE BOTANIST’S DAUGHTER is Kayte’s first novel of transporting historical fiction, and stems in part from her love of flowers and all things botanical. If you would like to see the wonderful images inspired by the book, Kayte’s Pinterest page is at: pinterest.com/kaytenunn/the-botanists-daughter or you can find her at kaytenunn.com
The Botanist’s Daughter
Published by Hachette Australia
Released 31st July 2018
Available in Paperback, eBook and Audiobook