editor's choice




My grandmother, a wise woman and some would say witch, used to say, treat the plants with the most beautiful flowers with respect and care, as they hide the best and worst of secrets. Of course, as a child, I ignored her – to my detriment, in fact, when I stupidly consumed a beautiful datura (I was four at the time), with almost deadly consequences. Still, you live and learn. Well, in my case. Others, alas, not. And datura, along with a host of other deadly lovelies, features in illustrator, author and folklorist Fez Inkwright’s wonderful, wonderful book, Botanical Curses and Poisons: The Shadow-Lives of Plants.

This is the kind of book I absolutely love. It’s beautiful for one thing, and all credit to the publisher, Liminal 11, Inkwright for her striking cover and the designer, Mike Medaglia, for producing what is a joy of an edition to behold and handle, from the cover and endpapers to the lovely black-and-white illustrations inside. Of course, a good-looking book is not enough: the text has to hold up – and it does.

Inkwright’s informed but very entertaining writing style keeps us enthralled as we learn about all manner of plants and herbs, some common garden varieties, the toxicity of which most of us probably were horrifically ignorant about, given the damage they can do. An example is rhubarb, the leaves of which if consumed in large quantities can result in convulsions and eventual kidney failure. Lovely. Others, like the mandrake, are more familiar, through fairy tales, legends, history and, well, Netflix.

This is a book full of titbits, stories, lovely verse and fascinating facts, presented in a beautiful package. It’s the kind of book one dips into, finding ever more intriguing morsels, which, of course, have to be further investigated and researched.

This will definitely become an Old Familiar for me, one of those essential books I revisit again and again, growing more fond of it each time, until it becomes a beloved friend. That’s the best compliment I can give it.

Hugely, hugely recommended.


Botanical Curses and Poisons  | Fez Inkwright | Liminal 11 | 7 January 2021 | hardback |

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Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the virtual book tour. Many thanks to lovely Anne Cater of Random Things Tours, as always, and to the publisher for sending us a beautiful book. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved. Please check out the other wonderful reviewers on this tour and please share them.

Also of interest:Alice Walker and the power of poetry‘; ‘By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Sylvia Plath on poetry‘; ‘WB Yeats, “The Journey of the Magi“‘; ‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Remembered‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘We should all be feminists‘; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

This review is copyright © 2021 by The Literary Shed. All rights are reserved. All opinions expressed are our own. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please contact us for permission and provide the necessary credit. Thank you so much. We welcome your feedback.





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