‘The Fair Botanists’ by Sara Sheridan is the standout novel of the year for me. It’s the wonderful story of two women and the connections they make in Edinburgh in the early 1800s. Elizabeth is a widow moving to Edinburgh to live with her husband’s family, and hoping for a better life. Her interest in botany and especially illustration, brings her into contact with those working at the new botanical gardens. The imminent flowering of a special tree has the city fascinated, as has the expected visit of the King. Belle has a secret identity and a plan for the future. She knows her present career will be short lived, so is using her interest in botany to ensure her comfort later. These two very different women find a common bond, forming a friendship that defies society’s expectations .
Elizabeth and Belle’s stories weave in and out with those of other prominent and not so prominent members of Edinburgh society. It is this that captured my attention and did not let go until the last page. Sara Sheridan builds each layer, and connects each strand, with beautifully written descriptive pose. It’s a story of life, of friendship and of love. Highly recommended.
I was given this ARC to review.