Sunday, November 21, 2010

Book Review: "The Lady's Slipper"

Deborah Swift's debut novel is The Lady's Slipper (St. Martin's Press, forthcoming), and it is an impressive first book indeed. Set in rural England during the first months of the Restoration, Swift's story begins with the theft of a rare orchid by Alice Ibbetson, a botanist's daughter who seeks to study and propagate the plant. Her crime is the first in a far-reaching sequence of events that will change Alice's life (and those of all those around her) in profound ways.

Swift has done well in creating a richly-textured universe for her story, populating it with characters who are all too human, from the erstwhile Alice to the upstanding Quaker Richard Wheeler (whose land she stole the plant from), the grasping Sir Geoffrey Fisk, and the troublesome maid Ella Appleby. As things take their course, Alice finds herself caught up in events far beyond her control, accused of a brutal murder she did not commit and worried that her seemingly harmless action could mean not only the end of her own life, but also the destruction of the rare plant she'd worked carefully to save.

The Lady's Slipper held my interest well, but it seemed as though Swift hurried through the last third of the book or so: the wrapping up of each little plotline in the last hundred pages or so was a bit too rushed and just a bit too unlikely. Nonetheless, it was a good read, and I'll look forward to Swift's next project (a book devoted to the troublemaking maid, Swift reports).

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