Monday 4 April 2022

The Herd by Emily Edwards #TheHerd @emily_elgar @PenguinUKBooks @BeckyShort1 #BookReview


You should never judge how someone chooses to raise their child.

Elizabeth and Bryony are polar opposites but their unexpected friendship has always worked. They're the best of friends, and godmothers to each other's daughters - because they trust that the safety of their children is both of their top priority.

But what if their choice could harm your own child?

Little do they know that they differ radically over one very important issue. And when Bryony, afraid of being judged, tells what is supposed to be a harmless white lie before a child's birthday party, the consequences are more catastrophic than either of them could ever have imagined . . .

The Herd by Emily Edwards was published by Bantam Press on 3 February 2022. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

What a timely novel this is! We currently live in a world full of vaccine debate, with varying views being shared freely on social media. The differences between opinions are massive, with some eye-watering views posted.  Vaccine debate is not new though. There has always been the talk of whether a child should be given their immunisation shots. Again, the debate veers widely from one side to the other, with many opposing views and many stories being shared. The problem we have is, who to believe?

I am not anti-vaccine. I've had all of my childhood immunisations and my three COVID injections too. My choice. I do respect those people who make the opposite choice though, although I don't really understand why, but that's a separate debate. 

Elizabeth and Bryony are the best of friends. They live side by side on a street filled with gorgeous houses. Their husbands get on well, their children are great friends. This is an unusual pairing, these are two entirely different characters, their outlook on life differs so much.  Elizabeth's life is organised and tidy whilst Bryony prefers a more laid-back approach; it would be fair to say that she's a bit of hippy. This has never affected their friendship, they are tight and depend upon one another for many things. She share confidences and coffee, and wine. It's the perfect set up.

Elizabeth and Bryony really differ on their view of vaccine. Whilst Elizabeth's daughter Clemmie is unable to be vaccinated due to an underlying health condition, Bryony has been raised by a mother who is terrified of vaccines. Bryony's brother is severely autistic and lives away from home, her mother has always blamed his childhood jabs for his condition. This is not something the women have really openly discussed. However when Elizabeth puts conditions on those people invited to Clemmie's birthday party, the story changes. This party will be the event that changes their whole lives, causing damage that will never be repaired, both physically and emotionally. 

This is a highly charged, emotive subject and the author tackles it really well. There's no bias here, the reader is shown the feelings and reasoning for all of the characters and all of them seem valid. 

The character creation is excellent and whilst I had every sympathy for Elizabeth, I just couldn't warm to her. I much preferred Bryony, with her more relaxed way of life and easy going nature. I do love an unlikeable character though and for me, this just added a depth that increased my enjoyment, because deep down, I agreed with Elizabeth ... however, there's a startling revelation that really does change everything. 

A book to savour and to think about, a story that raises so many questions, but doesn't give an answer. That's for the reader to do.  Told with compassion and warmth, I really enjoyed this one. 

After studying at Edinburgh University, Emily Edwards worked for a think tank in New York before returning to London where she worked as a support worker for vulnerable women at a large charity. She now lives in Lewes, East Sussex with her endlessly patient husband and her two endlessly energetic young sons.

The inspiration for The Herd came when she was eight months pregnant with her first son, and her husband and their vaccine-hesitant doula had an impassioned 'debate' about vaccination in their garden. As she sat there with her hands over her huge stomach listening to them both, Emily realized this was an issue which impacts us all and that it would make a brilliant topic for a novel.

Twitter @emily_elgar

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