Monday, August 11, 2008


Publisher Review: Madapple

by Christina Meldrum. See more about the book on the publisher's website, here.

(and read about my stance on reviews here, if you like.)

To start, let me fill you in on the title: Madapple is another name for a local herb also called jimsonweed that plays a major role in this tale so defined by herbs and lore. Aslaug grows up isolated, under the complete control of her mother, who teaches her what she thinks she should know, including lots of mythology and history, as well as great amounts about scientific inquiry and how to identify and use local flora.

The actual story unfolds in two formats running in alternating chapters - one a series of transciprts from a trial, the other the story as told by Aslaug in her complete version, filling in the gaps and questions that the court records open up. I must say that I think this gradual drawing out of the plot was probably supposed to engage and draw in a reader, but I didn't love the device. It was a bit slow going for me, though it did raise questions along the way, as intended.

Once Aslaug's mother passes away, she seeks and finds family, only to discover a world of strange, intertwined secrets and history. Herbs continue to play a role, but now she is thrust into a place of religion, where she is suddenly introduced to the readings and explorations that her mother kept hidden from her, although she had known that her mother was reading in these areas. Now she begins to see a new side of her mother and hear conflicting stories that leave her confused. Each member of this new family seems to have their own secrets and agendas, many of which revolve around her, but which she is unable to decipher. History seems to repeat itself at the end, until her cousin decides to take matters into his own hands and break from the madness.

Without giving away the ending, it does leave you with questions, most certainly, and with some things to chew on, if the story has grabbed you enough to make you keep thinking about it. For myself, I wasn't finding that I had to keep coming back to it, though I did also have to give myself a good few days to let it percolate before I could sit down and write a review. I found myself wonderign, instead, whether I liked it or not. It was haunting in places, certainly, it raises questions that might be of gripping interest for some readers, especially if they are of a religious bent, for it flirts with religious teachings, and it leaves open questions about the family and their history. In the end, though, I think I might just not have been the right person for this one.

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Sounds interesting.
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