Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre

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Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: A Time twisting, genre defying ride - Viper Wine is a book that puzzles, delights, intrigues - and touches on subjects highly relevant today with a deft and comedic touch.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: March 2015
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 9780099581666

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Venetia Stanley lives in Seventeeth century London. A celebrated beauty, she has had poems written in honour of her, and portraits painted by one of the leading artists of the time. Married to a handsome, kind and adventurous man, Venetia is kept in a life of luxury, and, at first glance - has everything she could ever have dreamed of. Except Venetia is not happy. A woman who has made her name and fortune because of her beauty, she is convinced that her allure is quickly slipping through her fingers. Signing a pact with an apothecary for his famed restorative 'Viper Wine', Venetia is set on a dangerous path.

A debut novel by Hermione Eyre - a woman who has served as a TV critic of the Independent on Sunday, and chief interview for the London Evening Standard magazine, Viper Wine is a thrilling, dazzling debut. Despite being, for the most part, historical fiction about a very real figure, Eyre still manages to surprise, shock and entertain the reader, lightly straddling several genres at once. Time travel, historical drama and modern satire intermingle in a way that, as a concept, seems tricky and unreadable - but is the exact opposite.

Venetia is a sympathetic character - given the amount of attention her beauty receives, her panic about her fading looks seems completely understandable, although her desperation and behaviour towards her husband Kenelm does make her veer toward the unlikeable at times.

Kenelm really steals the show as a character for me though - hugely intelligent and deeply caring, he somehow has access to information from the future - meaning that he can write notes down in Javascript, lead a group of sailing nobles in a verse of 'Yellow Submarine', and dream of beauty ideals from our current age. It is to the author's credit that she keeps these glimpses brief and whimsical - letting them inform the story and providing a level of clever reference and wit, but never letting them overwhelm the main thrust of the plot, nor interfering too greatly with our characters.

Eyre has really crafted something special, however the concept of the book makes it rather hard to explain or to reccomend. I would just advise people to pick this up - clever, moving, witty and hugely current, it is a modern piece of historical writing that provokes the reader into examining the ideals and pressures that govern everyday life today - but also makes clear that these pressures are nothing new.

An original, compelling and hugely entertaining novel - many thanks to the publishers for the copy.

With fantastic characters, intriguing concepts and a hint of magic, this reminded me a little of books by Jonathan Lethem. You Don't Love Me Yet is just one of his many excellent novels.

Buy Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre at

Buy Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre at


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