Book Review: The Herd by Emily Edwards

The Herd is on many a ‘books to look out for in 2022’ list. Whilst it was written before the pandemic – it is even more relevant now as it’s about whether or not to vaccinate your children. In the book the vaccine in question is MMR – but could equally be the Covid vaccine. Some of the reviews, included that quoted on the cover by the brilliant Clare Mackintosh, says that it will bring about debate – which seems to be already true as some of the reviews already on NetGalley are totally contradictory! Some implying it’s totally pro vaccination – and others that it is totally anti vaccination. I therefore suspect it possibly depends on your own beliefs and thoughts on vaccinations as to what you interpret from the FICTIONAL book.

Here’s the blurb:

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 . . .”

You know early on that there is a Court Case – and so something bad is going to happen – but the chapters about the court case – written by many different characters who you don’t fully meet (which was very clever) are interspersed with events from earlier in the Summer.

Some elements of the story are told from Elizabeth’s point of view – and some from Bryony’s – as it builds up to the court case itself. I don’t want to ruin too much of the story line – as I think you need to watch it unfold yourself. There are some red herrings (or pink flamingos!) along the way – so you’re never quite sure how everything is going to pan out.

I have to say I saw elements of myself in Elizabeth (it must go with the name!) being a control freak in general – but also being concerned for the health of a child with underlying issues (when our youngest was first diagnosed with a chronic health condition, I did myself worry about her mixing with unvaccinated children).

As well as Elizabeth and Bry, there is a supporting cast of family, friends and neighbours – all of whom add to the community feel of the book and the street where the two families live. It’s interesting to see the various allegiances – and how these change over the course of events.

One thing I would say, is that I’m not sure it would be a good book for a book club – but purely because vaccines are such an emotive subject, I fear that any discussions on the book would descend into a debate on vaccines in general and people often hold very strong and intransigent views on these – and I suspect this would over shadow talking about the book itself (which I think is written and edited brilliantly).

A massive thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for my ARC. The Herd is out in February 2022 and can be pre ordered now.

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