The Herbalist
The Herbalist is the electrifying first novel from Niamh Boyce, winner of the 2012 Hennesssy XO Award for New Irish Writing. It is a devastating and emotional story of yearning and obsession in 1930s rural Ireland.

Out of nowhere the herbalist appears and sets up his stall in the market square. Teenager Emily is spellbound by the exotic stranger - here is a man of the world who won't care that she's not respectable. However, Emily has competition for the herbalist's attentions. It seems the women of her small town are all mesmerized by the visitor who, they say, can perform miracles. When Emily discovers the miracle-worker's dark side, her world turns upside down. She may be naive, but she has a fierce sense of right and wrong. With his fate lying in her hands, Emily must make the biggest decision of her young life. To make the herbalist pay for his sins against the women of the town? Or let him escape to cast his spell on another place?

The Herbalist Details

Book TitleThe Herbalist
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The Herbalist Reviews

  • Noll
    Aug 12, 2016


    What a fabulous book! When I was initially seeking out titles for my Irish Counties Challenge, this one immediately jumped out at me, both because of the synopsis and the beautiful cover. I'm delighted its lived up to my hopes for it. Short chapters alternate in viewpoints between seve...

  • Heather
    May 19, 2016


    3.5/4 Not sure what I feel about this. Loved the idea but not so much the execution of this story. ...

  • Claire O'brien
    Apr 27, 2016

    Claire O'brien

    I picked up this book at my Mum's and was drawn into it immediately, and ended up bringing it home with me, even though I already have shelves of books waiting to be read. It dipped a bit in the middle and began to get a bit monotonous, and really could have done with losing 30-50 page...

  • Dem
    Apr 13, 2016


    3.5 Stars The Herbalist by Niamh BoyceSet in the 1930s in a small town in Ireland The Herbalist is a simple and compelling story, excellently well crafted with subtle detail and exquisite prose that will keep you turning the pages of this beautifully written novel.It is hard to believ...

  • Cora ☕ Tea Party Princess
    Feb 8, 2016

    Cora ☕ Tea Party Princess

    A very easy four stars. Almost five.This story starts slow and builds and builds and builds. It is fantastically written and the prose is so lyrical that it felt at times as though I were reading a poem. The writing itself grows and by the end you feel as though you're reading a differ...

  • Bonnie
    Sep 21, 2015


    I was so happy to have won this book through @bleachhouselibrary. Love getting books from the UK. This is the first book written by Niamh Boyce, and I loved it. It covers a small community in 1930s Ireland and the many characters' experience with the herbalist that arrived in town. I f...

  • Tracy Gaughan
    Aug 2, 2015

    Tracy Gaughan

    Firstly, this is a brilliantly written first novel by new Irish author from Kildare - Niamh Boyce. Inspired by a 1940's newspaper clipping about a herbalist arrested for crimes against young girls, Boyce deals with the hypocrisy and closed-mindedness of early twentieth century Ireland....

  • Evie
    Jul 12, 2015


    Extremely well written. One of those books that hooks you right from the start. The female characters in this novel are so strong that I actually forgot about the herbalist at one point! I was so engaged in their individual stories and how their paths crossed. It was like reading a goo...

  • Canadian Reader
    Jan 10, 2015

    Canadian Reader

    This was a potentially interesting story of rural Ireland in the 1930s. When a herbalist arrives in a small town, the women flock to him (many secretly), hoping he'll cure what ails them. In fact, he is a back-room abortionist. There are elements of magic realism--the ghost of a girl, ...

  • Soaraway
    Sep 17, 2014


    I found it really difficult to get into this novel. The character development was rather weak, especially the development of character relationships. It's ok to have a weak character but not a weakly developed character. Emily's relationship with the Herbalist and his with her seems im...