The Midsummer Garden
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.