Saturday, July 31, 2010

Show Me Five/Poison Diaries by Mary Rose Wood

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Show Me Five is a weekly meme created by  That's a Novel Idea where  you  post the answers to five questions. The questions number indicates the number of answers you will provide. And I must add that I really enjoy posting a review using this format definitely helps offset the rut I sometimes feel I am in when I write a review.

1 Name of the book :

The Poison Diaries by MaryRose Wood with The Duchess of Northumberland

2 Word that describe the book:

Gothic fiction

3 Setting where it took place and/or characters:

The setting for Poison Diaries is actually based on a real place in England called Northumberland, an area presided over by Alnswick Castle. Anyone who has ever seen a Harry Potter movie should recognize this castle as Hogwarts. 

While much of the action in the story takes place in a small cottage outside of Northumberland, known as Hulne Abbey, where Jessiamine and her father live, Jessamine  along with Weed do go to the castle to bring medicine to one of the Duke's servants. It is however, the ruins of  Hulne Abbey where Jessamine's father keeps a lock garden where he has collected and grows a variety of poisonous plants and the conflict in the story revolves around the plants in this garden. Much of Wood's research was aided by the Duchess of Northumberland who along with her world renown public gardens also has a world famous poison garden on the castle grounds.

Jessamine is the protagonist in the story. She is 16 years-old and spends a lot of time alone while her father is off taking his potions to the sick. She gardens, keeps house, cooks, sews, reads, and is basically ignored by her father. While there was little physical description, in my mind's eye I saw Jessamine as being plain on first look, but with an inner beauty that comes from her strength, stubborness, and love of nature. She also blossoms with Weed.

Weed enters into Jessamine and her father's life rolled up in carpet like a mummy on the back of a horse. He is described at first as an imp and a monster. Jessamine however sees  his dark tousled hair, wide emerald eyes, and changeable mouth and wants to tame him. Weed is quite, shy, a boy of few words.  He is an enigma with a mysterious way of communing with nature.

4 likes and/or dislikes:

I like the poetic way Wood's has of describing the world Jessamine lives in.

Everywhere the trees shyly display their newly opened leaves, so tender and green. The willow tree is already in bloom, heavy with cakins. The rhododendron buds have swollen to bursting;razor edges of pink and viloet show through at each seam. New blossoms appear in the meadow every day and make a kaleidoscope of the grass:bluebells, violets, and butter-yellow daffodils.

and the passionate way Woods describes, Jessamine's feelings about Weed...

His voice holds me in its tender spell. His eyes graze over my body without shyness---he takes me in as a landscape, a lush terrain of swells and valleys. 

I disliked Jessamine's father, who took advantage of Jessamine and then treated her like a child when it suited his purpose. It was as if he kept her like he kept his poison garden, gated and locked away so no one could enter except him. His actions at the end made him a despicable man.

I liked how Wood created a Gothic feel to the book. There is a  mysterious and dark mood that surrounded Weed and the poison garden. The setting, which includes the castle, and the ruins of the abbey, and the underlying secrets of Jessamine's father add to the overall atmosphere as well.  Finally, I  liked the understated horror that the story builds to with shocking results.

I liked how the story is told in diary format, and how it allows insight into Jessamine's character. I also liked how towards the end the narration changed from Jessamine to Weed, and how Woods also brings the reader into Jessamine's dreams, which introduces a new character, Oleander, the Prince of Poisons.

5 stars or less:

While there is a lot that I liked about The Poison Diaries and will certainly read the next book to find out what happens to Jessamine and Weed, I think the pacing  would discourage some YA readers. If I had a 3.5 rating I would probably give the book this. Definitely a satisfying read.


Rhiana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rhiana said...

Do you know, Alnwick Castle is only about an hours drive from me and I've never been? Plan to change that very soon! I really liked this one. Love the photographs.

Nomes (inkcrush) said...

i love all the pics that give this post a lovely gothic feel and the celebs you chose match the descriptons so well

I really feel compelled to this book, sounds like the kind of read that i enjoy, i know what you mean about pacing though. Once i read a few really hard-core paced novels, i find it harder to settle into the slower more literary style.

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

This is a great post! I definitely love the setting of this book, it seems to be a great backdrop for the story, wild, mysterious and romantic at the same time. And the author's writing style really is compelling.

Natalie (Mindful Musings) said...

Hmmm...this one sounds good! I like the "Show Me 5" post because it tells a little more about the book than an ordinary review would.

I think I'll be adding The Poison Diaries to my TBR list. Thanks for the recommendation! :)

Lily Michelon Rosenthal said...

First of all, I'm really glad you reviewed this book, 'cause I was curious about it.

Second, I wanted to let you know that I gave you a Versatile Blogger award on my blog. :)

You can see the post here:


Christina T said...

Great review! I really want to read this now. Thanks for sharing the pictures too. Had no idea that was the castle used for Hogwarts. :)

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Oh Hogwarts! :D This looks good!

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