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The Lady's Slipper: A Novel (Reading Group Gold) Paperback – November 23, 2010

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Product Details

  • Series: Reading Group Gold
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Original edition (November 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312638337
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312638337
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,665,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Civil War in England has left tempers high as King Charles II returns from exile in 1660 in Swift's uneven debut. Having seen the horrors of war, Richard Wheeler converts to Quakerism, an unpopular religion. His neighbor, Alice Ibbetson, is so taken with the Lady's Slipper, a rare orchid that grows on his land, that she steals it, drawing the two of them into a complicated web of politics, lies, and violence at the hands of local landholder Geoffrey Fisk. The Quakers, whose concept of all men being equal, infuriates Fisk and he wants to see them eliminated, starting with Richard. Swift has a difficult time creating believable characters; Alice's obsession with the orchid is so extreme as to be laughable, Richard is an awfully bland hero, and Geoffrey is the requisite broadly-drawn villain. While the writing moves swiftly, too many plot lines and too little historical context make it hard for those unfamiliar with the period to understand the underlying class and religious tensions.
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Top Pick! Swift's eye for detail and language augment this atypical debut. Compelling and intriguing, this is a well-told story full of wonderful prose and surprising events. It's a vivid addition to the genre. --RT BookReviews

Realistic dialogue, an author's obvious love for history, and characters that leap off the pages, THE LADY'S SLIPPER is a brilliant saga set in a time of confusion in England as it recovers from years of civil strife.

--Romance Reviews Today

The Lady's Slipper has all the characteristics of well-received historical romance. Recommended for fans of Philippa Gregory and Rose Tremain, as well as students of the English Civil War. --Library Journal

Deborah Swift's writing style, combined with her knowledge of mid 17th Century life is masterful in her portrayal of a crueller and less tolerant time --Historical Novel Review

"The Civil War and its aftermath have finished and the King is back on his throne, but the memories of the awful conflict are never far from people’s minds. In Westmoreland, Alice Ibbetson mourns the death of her young sister and takes solace only in the painting and propagating of wild plants. To this end she steals the almost mystical orchid known as the lady’s slipper from land belonging to Richard Wheeler.

Wheeler, an ex-soldier and Quaker, is drawn to Alice, but longs for the return of his orchid as a token of his faith. At the same time he is being drawn into the political maelstrom again when the Quakers start to make a stand against oppression. But Alice and Richard are not the only ones with their eyes on the prize. Sir Geoffrey Fisk believes that the lady’s slipper will restore his fortune and his health. Wise woman Margaret Poulter is also drawn to its reputed medicinal powers.

Then a murder takes place and Alice finds herself fighting for her freedom and her life. With so many people turning against her, Alice finds that the one person she can trust is the one she has been lying to all along.

The Lady’s Slipper is a fabulous debut novel from Deborah Swift. Using prose that is remarkable for its simplicity, clarity and beauty – her attention to detail is commendable – she effortlessly evokes the early years of the Restoration and the beginnings of the Quaker movement. The novel grips from the opening lines and carries the interest throughout. The several plot strands are seamlessly blended and come together in a wholly satisfying conclusion. Her characters are so real that they linger in the mind long after the book is back on the shelf.

Highly recommended."


Customer Reviews

The five characters in `The Lady's Slipper', were very well developed and complex.
Jean Doucette
I can definitely recommend this book and am very much looking forward to reading Swift's next work, The Gilded Lily!
Amy M. Bruno
The themes are of love, choices of treachery, jealousy and tenderness ran through the book.
C. Wong

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Holly Weiss VINE VOICE on November 24, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Author Deborah Swift took a summer walk in the woods of the mountain district in England where she resides. She discovered Britain's rarest wildflower, the elegant lady's slipper, and wrote a poem about it. Feeling the poem paid insufficient homage to the rare orchid, she fashioned a chapter where it could be admired by characters. Chapters blossomed into a book, The Lady's Slipper, featuring main character, Alice Ibbetson, a botanist and artist.

After years in theater as a costume designer, Swift has an uncanny ability to set a scene so the reader feels a curtain has just been opened on a new act of a play. She has a knack for attaching an attitude to a description. Water is "as soft as a horse's muzzle." A stew is "grayish meat and kale swimming in a greasy liquid that should have been gravy."

Weary of reviews where the plot line is endlessly copied from other sources, this reviewer prefers to whet your appetite for some characters you will meet in the pages of this engrossing book. Herbalist, spy, skank maid, traitor, botanist, artist, soldier turned peacemaker, prisoner, perjurer, flibbertigibbet, murderer, cook, thief, arsonist and accused witch all join hands to populate this romantic historical fiction novel.

Early 17th century England is reeling after its Civil War and struggling to return to a sense of normalcy with its new regent, Charles II. The Lady's Slipper takes a magnifying glass to the era's societal and religious changes. Its characters wear the turbulence of the times on their sleeves as their personal lives dip in and swirl, intermingling with unexpected turns in the plot.

The novel's concept is unique. An orchid that bloomed for thousands of years is stolen, disturbing the natural order of things. Characters surprise us.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ann Weisgarber on December 2, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is more than the story about an orchid. This is a story about the unchecked desire to possess something that is rare and beautiful. Tied to the Quaker movement, The Lady's Slipper brings to life the prejudice and persecution suffered by the Quakers. Swift also skillfully reveals the struggle to live a non-violent life in a violent world.

This book was first released in England where it was well received and continues to be a big hit. Finally it's available in the States. It's a story that has stayed with me. I highly recommend it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lisa F- Bookworm Lisa on March 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
The Lady's Slipper is symbolic. Alice is a botanist and artist. She is introduced to a rare orchid growing in a neighbor's yard. She is immediately struck by the flower, it was her deceased sister's favorite plant. She steals the plant to help it and cultivate it. She destroys a pair of slippers in the process.

To me the slippers represent the changes in life circumstances. The soft silky slippers of a lady, the clogs of the peasants, the homespun clothes of a religious group that puts off the frippery of man and turns to God, and finally the frailty of a rare orchid.

This is set in the early 1600's in England. The Quakers are gaining popularity and disdain as a religious group. The book shows the struggle of a plant, the struggle of a religious sect and the struggles of a woman. The plant struggles for life alone, the lady's slippers (Alice's) would condemn her and teach her many lessons on life and love.

This book is not a religious book. But it does explore how religion can set man against man. The book illustrates what a person will do for power and money. And finally how we look can inward to find who we are and our place in the scheme of life. This is a fantastic piece of historic fiction.

There are adult situations that are not overly graphic.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Misfit VINE VOICE on November 23, 2010
Format: Paperback
England, 1660. Alice Ibbetson, dabbles in plants and painting them and when she spies a very rare Lady Slipper orchid on Richard Wheeler's property she aims to have it and protect it - even if she must steal it. Mission accomplished (or so she thinks), but Sir Geoffrey covets the plant for himself as the roots might wield the medicine he needs to cure his life-long skin condition. And what about Richard? Will he accuse her of theft and send her to gaol? Or will he fall victim to her charms instead? And what about her jerk husband Thomas dallying with that spiteful, sneaky, lying maid Ella? Alice's theft has unforeseen consequences that will change the lives of everyone around her, let alone leave her at risk of facing ...

Ummm, you know I can't tell you that, don't you?

I enjoyed this a lot, although I definitely preferred the chapters that focused on Alice and her knowledge and work with plants and painting them, and would have liked to have seen more of that. I had a hard time at first getting a focus on what was happening with the village folk, the Quakers community, as well as Sir Geoffrey and his family and how it would all tie in with Alice's story - but never fear, there are more layers to the story that unfold as the story progresses. My only real quibble, and it's a minor one, is that many of the characters were a little too black and white, either very very good or very very bad. Still, an enjoyable read and one I would recommend.

I received a copy of this book from Librarything's Early Reviewers program.
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More About the Author

I am an avid reader, and a nature and art fan. I live on the edge of the English Lake District - a place made famous by the poets Wordsworth and Coleridge and love to enjoy walks in this stunning scenery. I write from a tall stone house which was once a school and built in 1902. This is a house that is "new" in English terms, as many of our local villages date back to the 1630's or even earlier. The landscape of lakes and mountains where I live is a constant source of inspiration, and provided me with the setting for "The Lady's Slipper". "The Gilded Lily", a companion book to "The Lady's Slipper", is an adventure set in the smoke and coffee houses of Restoration London. I was born in London, and did my Bachelor of Arts in Scenography and Costume Design there, so it was a pleasure to re-visit the city during my research for "The Gilded Lily". Though I have to say, it has changed quite a lot since the 17th century and much of my research was in archives or museums.

My third book is called "A Divided Inheritance" and is set in England and Golden Age Spain in Jacobean times. For this novel I enjoyed travelling to Seville to research the beautiful Moorish palaces and also loved researching the lace trade. All three books are published by Macmillan or St Martin's Press.

You can discover more of what I am working on now through my website where you will also find my blogs.

You can find chat with me about The Gilded Lily and my other books on facebook -
or follow me on Twitter @swiftstory

Photo by Jonathan Bean Photography

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The Lady's Slipper: A Novel (Reading Group Gold)
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