This historical fiction novel combined two unusual genres - history on the one hand and horticulture on the other. This was a win for me from Sarah of Reading the Past.
The time is 1660 and though the British Civil War is over there is still tension about as to where one's loyalties lie with religious dissension also very much alive. Alice a botanist and a painter of plants discovers a rare orchid indigenous to Britain and to a particular patch in the woodlands. Alice decides to steal it for future safekeeping and to propagate more plants against the wishes of Richard Wheeler the guardian of the woodlands who thinks that its rightful place is where God initially put it and it is not up to humans to interfere with the natural order of things.
Little does Alice realize that her stealing this plant sets off a tumultuous tide of events, way beyond her control leading to her eventual imprisonment and breakdown of her marriage, her life and her final forced fleeing from Britain.
The story gives one a glimpse of life in rural Britain of the time, as well as a glimpse into the life of Quakers and the dissensions that rang so strongly in Britain fuelled by miscommunication on anyone who did not conform to the norm. It is frightening to see the extent to which intolerance existed and to what lengths people would go to stamp out what they felt was not their point of view of how people should live.
I would recommend this book not just for readers who like historical fiction but for anyone wanting a good read. I am looking forward to Swift's next book.