Friday, 21 June 2013

Have you met The Herbalist?

Here I am, in Easons Dublin, meeting The Herbalist
Irish author Niamh Boyce has just published a spellbinding novel. When turning the pages, you will turn back time and enter an older Ireland. You will find yourself in a 1930s small town in the midlands. Here is the place where without warning, a mysterious and exotic foreigner walks into the lives of the provincial town folk...

"He just appeared one morning and set up shop in the market square. It was drizzling. Everything was either a shade of brown or a shade of grey. He was the lightest thing there, the one they called the black doctor. He wore a pale suit and a straw hat and waved his arms like a conductor. The men spat about dark crafts and foreign notions but the women loved him. Oh, the rubs, potions, tinctures and lotions he had, unguents even. I went to the market the first chance I got, to see past the headscarves, but all I got was a glimpse of a bottle held high, and the gold ringed fingers that gripped it. The women crowded around his stall."

Sinéad Gleeson of The Irish Times wrote about the real life events that inspired the novel. When she was 19, Niamh discovered a tiny newspaper report from 1942 of a court case concerning a “coloured man arrested for serious offences against girls". This planted a seed in Niamh's imagination, which over 20 years grew into a whole character.

Niamh did an interview with Theresa Milstein on how she evolved from writing short stories to discovering that she had enough material for a whole novel, "there were several false starts at novels that petered out at 10,000 words. I harvested stories from some of them. It didn’t bother me too much, these poor fledgling novels that went nowhere.  I went back to writing stories, and when the character of the herbalist appeared in one of them I thought nothing of it. When he appeared in another, and then another, I realized if I were to write a novel, it would have to be about him."
The Herbalist was published by Penguin Ireland and agented by Ger Nichol.


  1. Thanks for sharing your post, Mary. I like having a bigger picture of how Niamh's seed turned into wonderful novel. Love the excerpt you chose. She writes beautifully.

    Great picture of you and The Herbalist.

  2. Thank you, Theresa, for always being so warm and altruistic.

    Also apologies because you left a very encouraging comment when I first opened this blog, but Blogger would not give me the 'publish' option because I had not filled out the comment form. After, I filled out the form, they still would not give me the 'publish' option. *Sigh*

    But it's only just the beginning and we'll have many more adventures in blogland to come.

    Wishing you the very best with all your writings,