Book review

The Herd

emily edwards

In a few words

Set in the UK, this novel tells the story of two families: Elizabeth and Jack, and Bryony (Bry) and Ash. Elizabeth and Bry are best friends — although they have quite different personalities — and godmothers to each other’s daughters (Clemmie and Alba). Their husbands, Jack and Ash, are friends to each other and the two families’ children all play together. The well-being, safety and happiness of their families are their top priorities and life is pretty good for both couples.
Unbeknown to each other though, Elizabeth and Bry differ in opinion on one very important issue: immunisation.

Bry’s brother Matty is severely autistic and Bry has grown up listening to her mother who believes that his autism was caused by the MMR vaccination he had received as a baby. Based on this, Bry has chosen not to immunise Alba.

Elizabeth strongly believes in immunisation and her two sons are vaccinated, however she relies on herd immunity to protect Clemmie who was very unwell as a baby and cannot be vaccinated.
Fearful of being judged, Bryony tells a misleading lie before Clemmie’s birthday party which has a disastrous outcome. 

Great for

Anyone who enjoys a thought-provoking read about a divisive issue will enjoy this book. The novel is set in 2019, prior to the Coronavirus pandemic where the topic of vaccination and the accompanying mandates caused a lot of family, community, and country-wide disharmony.

The novel is also a good family character driven story. We have two strong female characters in Elizabeth and Bry, who are on opposite sides of the vaccination debate. The reasoning behind their personal beliefs is explored and the reader is left to ponder what they would have done, have done or would do, in similar situations. Relationships are discussed and trust is explored.

Why I love this book

I do enjoy a book based around an issue and the subject of vaccination is something we have all lived with over the past few years so this is a timely subject matter. We all have our own personal beliefs and attitudes, and this book does well to explore the issue from both sides of the debate — the fine line between personal choice and collective responsibility.

I loved that the book elicited emotions from me as I dealt with the character’s emotions, especially the mothers involved – heartbreak, anger, pain, and blame. I didn’t warm to the characters but thought they were well written. Truth and lies between couples and friends created tension as you got further into the book.

This is an easy read covering a serious subject and I’m sure it will elicit some great discussion within book groups.

My one criticism would be

I don’t have one. 

Lesley Heal

Book notes administrator

Lesley reads widely with her book group, but particularly enjoys character-driven fiction and is also drawn to compelling true tales.

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