There are so many fascinating aspects to this story that most people will find something to keep them reading, eager to discover solutions. There is a beautiful weaving of stories between a French woman, Artemisia, in1487, and Pip, a Tasmanian woman, in 2014. Both are fascinated by herbs and plants. Both women are romantically involved, and both women love cooking. The combining of the two stories, and descriptions of each separate setting, is very cleverly done.
Pip is studying and completing her data collection for a PHD in Marine biology. She is engaged to Jack who wants to marry her, but wants her to put her study on hold. Pip knows that, if she has a break from her studies, it will be difficult to return, and resents Jack pressuring her. Artemisia is a young woman who was left at a chateau as a baby. A kindly Abbot saw to her growing up, and she had lessons in reading and writing with the young heir of the chateau. She was assigned to the kitchen, but was very often in the garden with the Abbot collecting herbs, or planting vegetables.
Life in France in the 1400s for a kitchen maid or cook was similar to slave labour. Artemisia was to discover just how bad things could get, when the kindly Abbot, who had cared for her for many years, died. His replacement was an angry and volatile man, who beat the staff and intimidated the monks. It was then very unexpected, that a local spice merchant who supplied the kitchen with fresh herbs, should meet and fall in love with Artemisia, and she with him.
Both women face great dilemmas. Pip has a desperate need to continue her research, and discover how she can positively affect the sea life she works with, and Artemisia wonders how she can escape from the servitude she works under, and leave to marry. While Pip has a loving and supportive family to back her, Artemisia is alone. However, the cook begins to write her imaginative recipes down and stores them in great metal pots, which hang in the kitchen. It is these pots that come to Pip, being passed down from generation to generation.
Fascinating facts emerge as Pip finds the recipes, and has them forensically examined. While we have an insight into the cook’s life, Pip can only wonder at the beauty of the herbs, and the way that they are used. Romance is a reality for both women, but both had to make their own way.
So many interesting facts emerge about the use of herbs, and ways to cook with them that most people will want to try a few of the ideas out. What an interesting story, filled with joy, sorrow and gardens.
|Publisher||Allen and Unwin|
|Distributor||Allen and Unwin|