I was in my home town of Athy, Co. Kildare on Tuesday night, and spent a very enjoyable hour or so at the launch of Niamh Boyce's The Herbalist, which happens to take place in a fictional town very like Athy. Set in the 'thirties, it tells the story of a stranger to the town who sets out his market stall, trading in herbs and creams, and darker arts. The novel is based on a newspaper clipping Niamh came across about a man who was charged in court with 'an offence against a girl.'
The library was packed, the wine flowing, and the woman of the moment, well... busy, trying to keep up with the long queue of folks wanting their book signed, the lucky ones who managed to buy their book before it sold out. Patricia Deevy, of Penguin Ireland, and writer, John McKenna, gave rave introductions to both author and book. Deservedly. I started reading the next day, and neglected home and children (and writing...) until I finished it this morning. It's a wonderful read; there's a beautifully light touch to the prose, a steadily growing darkness in the plot, and characters who I suspect will remain with me long after reading.
Before we left, the evening took on a slightly surreal quality when a local grocer and publican, now I believe in his nineties, leaned over and told my mother and me (of the herbalist) 'I remember him well.'