Hermione Eyre’s debut novel Viper Wine is an unusual treatment of the life of Venetia Stanley. Venetia was an outstanding beauty, but with increasing age, her looks are declining. Like any modern beautiful celebrity, she is willing to try almost anything to keep up her appearance. Time and place are 17th century London and beauty treatments have no supervision by an agency similar to the FDA. Venetia persuades an apothecary to secretly sell her “viper wine” for a stupendous price. This viper wine is made of expressed snake venom and other even less attractive ingredients. Venetia must hide her potion use from her husband because he is a competent enough scientist to understand how dangerous her treatment can be. The novel makes use of actual writings by prominent people for authenticity. Another technique used by the author is to imagine communication between the novel’s time period and present day. Venetia’s home was used as a base by code breakers who worked there during WW II. The atmosphere that is created is what sets this novel above an ordinary historical novel.
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