The most celebrated beauty in seventeenth-century London,
Venetia Stanley inspires Ben Jonson to poetry, paintings by Van Dyck to paint, and adoration from the masses. Stampedes follow her arrival in town. But as she approaches middle age, the attention turns to scrutiny. Herr adoring husband Sir Kenelm Digby – philosopher, alchemist and time-traveller – wishes she would age naturally, but Venetia discovers a potent and addictive elixir of youth, Viper Wine.
Set on the eve of the English Civil War, and based on a true story, this brilliant novel asks a very contemporary question: what is the cost of beauty?
Nominated for the Folio Prize
Nominated for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction
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An ambitious, deliciously clever debut... Set in a seventeenth-century London steeped in magic, vanity, decadence, devotion, trippy time travel, and a diabolical beauty potion worthy of Shakespeare, the book’s extravagant intelligence and heart were inspired by a true love story for the ages…
A biting tale of age-obsession and vanity way before Botox.
Defies rigid definition. A lushly rendered portrait of life at Charles I’s court explodes in a maelstrom of anachronistic references (think David Bowie, Naomi Campbell, and the Daily Mail), a Romantic cautionary tale of beauty’s hypnotic power (think Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Birthmark, as written by a young, female, contemporary writer), and a dynamic study of England at the brink of its Civil War...Viper Wine is an incredible accomplishment. You will love it.
Hermione Eyre’s brilliant debut, Viper Wine, explores the perils of achieving beauty at all costs, set against a backdrop of the political and social upheaval of 17th-century London...Eyre’s stylish flair and sense of invention is truly impressive. Like Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, Viper Wine is a historic fantasy reminding us of the limitless reaches of the imagination.
Fascinating…A fact-filled fiction that entertains and enlightens.
Eyre’s confident debut novel expertly combines historical fact with modern-day invention…An engrossing take on a timeless subject.
Golly what a book!
Using an alchemy all of her own, Eyre's postmodern take on the seventeenth century renders it dazzingly fresh and contemporary
Nick Rennison, The Sunday Times
Historical novelists usually try to avoid anachronisms but, in Viper Wine, Hermione Eyre’s playful, witty and expansive debut novel, the author positively rejoices in them… Eyre’s novel is an exceptionally clever and exhilarating excursion through Caroline high society, filled with echoes and anticipations of our own times.
Lucy Scholes, The Observer
This exuberantly inventive and intelligent imagining of Venetia Stanley’s life follows her attempts to cling onto her looks by taking fashionable beauty treatments… Sumptuous, strange and startlingly original.
Alex Starritt, The Mail on Sunday
No account of [Van Dyck] has perhaps been so convincing as that in Viper Wine, the debut novel by journalist Hermione Eyre. An intoxicating fantasy in which real-life characters are haunted by the future… it feels both thrillingly and entertainingly right.
Marcus Field, The Independent on Sunday
A brilliant story… Rich with gorgeous detail that brings 17th-century scintillatingly alive, it also treats seriously the political and philosophical questions of [the] age… Eyre is a clever historian and a cunning writer of dialogue. She also understands what makes a fun, sexy read and that knowledge is given glorious free reign in this story. Moments of brilliance and breathtaking cleverness [make this] quite the strangest historical novel of the decade.
Melissa Katsoulis, The Times
A meticulously luscious fantasia on a theme of high life in the 1630s. Gorgeous… ambitious… Hermione Eyre pulls off a notable trick in Viper Wine, by not just reconstructing her chosen period but rendering it permeable to intrusions from other ages.
Michael Caines, Times Literary Supplement
Hermione Eyre’s bold and satisfying debut novel reimagines Venetia’s final months.... A tightrope performance, Viper Wine offers up a potent mixture of baroque intricacy and gothic horror. Like Laurent Binet’s HHhH, Viper Wine tries to tease out the tensions that exist when telling history as fiction. The stylistic brio and technical invention on show here are truly impressive… Eyre’s poise and control make her easily the equal of most historical novelists, but it is her vision of worlds bleeding into worlds that is truly exciting. Viper Wine is an enormously impressive debut.
John Gallagher, The Sunday Telegraph
A sensuous, sumptuous book that’s crying out for a TV adaptation.
Cathy Rentzenbrink, The Bookseller
Eyre’s prose is sensuous and rich… she makes the subject a source of fascination. Her recreation of the period is persuasive and alluring….
Bold and wildly original, Viper Wine is an exuberantly witty play on the vanity and ghoulishness of the beauty industry, and a celebration of the unfading beauty of language. Eyre’s impersonation of early Caroline prose has perfect pitch; her sentences hum and trill with pleasure, and her words are as plump and strange as moonfruit. Hermione Eyre has injected new youth into the historical novel.
Frances Wilson, London Evening Standard
A profoundly moving parable about the process of ageing, the quest for knowledge and the nature of love… Eyre’s voracious enthusiasm for eclectic, highly-researched detail is persistently entertaining, breathing new life into the genre of the historical novel. A real tonic.
Matilda Bathurst, Country Life
It’s baroque’n’roll! Here’s a genre-defying debut novel. Vivid and vivacious – hats off to Eyre.
Sebastian Shakespeare, Tatler