The Mid­sum­mer Gar­den

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - BOOKS - by Kirsty Man­ning, Allen & Un­win. KE

Ripe to be plucked for a screen adap­ta­tion, this mouth-wa­ter­ing de­but novel – metic­u­lously re­searched and crafted – raises the bar in con­tem­po­rary and his­tor­i­cal fic­tion cou­pling. Plant­ing her story in both mod­ern Tas­ma­nia’s mud­flats and a 15th-cen­tury French chateau kitchen, Man­ning’s eye for par­al­lel char­ac­ter­is­tics of our pro­tag­o­nists – marine bi­ol­o­gist and chef Pip, and baker and herbal­ist Artemisia – is ex­quis­ite. As Pip men­tors stu­dent sam­ple­taker Taj, Artemisia helps maid Em­me­line shadow her sea­soned sauce turn­ing. Pip’s dis­cov­ery of me­dieval parch­ment recipes in an heir­loom cop­per pot from her mother whisks us off on her jour­ney to France and Italy; the aro­mas of mush­room for­ag­ing, the mix­ing of worm­wood and botan­i­cals for ver­mouth in­fus­ing ev­ery page as the two tales knot. Our heroines are com­pelling, com­pas­sion­ate and ad­mirable. Pip al­ways puts div­ing bells be­fore wed­ding bells, which frus­trates wine­maker fi­ancé Jack, while Artemisia can­not wait to be betrothed to spice mer­chant An­dreas. But only one of our proud women shall walk down the aisle in a gown edged with Artemisia, Mother of Herbs.

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