Book Review – Plant Lore and Legend by Ruth Binney.

3 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Dover Publications for providing me with a free – temporary – electronic ARC of this book, via Netgalley. Although I required their approval, the decision to read this book is my choice and any reviews given are obligation free.

My interest in reading ‘Plant Lore and Legend’ came from my love or herbalism, holistic healing, gardening, being a Pagan and the usual “hippy dippy greenie” stuff that makes me the awesome person I am.

Sadly I found it a little bit of a let-down. I mean, it started well and I got all excited as it spoke of the meaning of flowers, bouquets and the like… But once we got into trees and then further into the book it became more of a one liner reference of things than the in-depth look into the lore and legends of plants I had expected.

Don’t even get me started on the not that flattering look at pagans and witches it vaguely bumps into from time to time. It really came across as some old women gossiping around a coffee table basing their wisdom on hearsay and misinformation.

Oh my, that makes it sound like I hated ‘Plant Lore and Legend’ and I certainly did NOT. What I am meaning to say is this book is really more of a base reference to some of the lore and legends, rather than being the detailed reference book I was hoping it to be. But, if it had managed to be the book I had hoped for, the end product would have been as thick as an old style phone book! Instead it jumped about in a jumble, as if rambling off all that the author knew, had heard of, in regards to plants, their myths, lore and legends. I would have rather it stuck to maybe one or two of the topics breezed over and gone into them in more detail. Such as the how it started off with flowers. That part of the book was excellent and very enjoyable information. It spoke of the various cultures experience with certain flowers, how they used them, what (if any) message the flowers spoke and so on. THAT is how the whole book should have been.

I started to lose interest when ‘Plant Lore and Legend’ moved into trees, as the descriptions and details got even briefer. Then it seemed to wander off and add any old nonsense as long as it related to plants. If it had just chosen, say, the top 50 common plants in the Western World and gone on as it had started about their origins, uses, traditions in as great details as how it started – ‘Plant Lore and Legend’ would be a superb book and one I would be buying in an instance. As it currently stands, it’s a little too hit and miss for me. But I feel I might be jaded and bias as my interest in lore and legends, plant use in health and herbalism, and my Pagan faiths mean I already knew a lot of the information told in this book… sometimes incorrectly told too – sorry. So, it’s another “not the right audience for this book” moment. This is a shame, but would explain a lot.

I feel that ‘Plant Law and Legend’ is a book better suited to those newly interested in plants and their history. This is the sort of book I would have enjoyed more in my early teens, when I first started reading up on such things. Back when generic statements and brief descriptions within a book were there to pique the interest and encourage the reader to seek more detailed information in other books. So I would say this book is more aimed at your newbie plant lovers, and may it encourage them to seek to learn more as it is an amazing topic in more detailed books.

On the book nerd side of things, formatting is excellent and easy to read but, in all honesty, I kept wondering WHY the pictures throughout the book weren’t in colour! There are some simply gorgeous doodles and plant drawings seeded nicely all the way through and, in the ARC at least, they are all in black and white. To me this really took away some of the magic and wonder the book was trying to instil in the reader. That added colour would have helped draw me in and keep me interested just that little bit longer. Instead, the monochrome merely added to my feeling this was a glib black and white look at a world that really can’t be expressed in narrow, black and white ways. 🙂

Would I recommend this book to others?

I might, but it would be to those new to learning the lore and legends of plants, and the recommendation would be given with the added advice that this is only one opinion on it all and that the reader should use it as a stepping stone only. As in, ‘Plant Lore and Legend’ is a great way to learn about a certain aspect of plant lore and legends… that the reader can then research further through more details, accurate, books. Buy a Culpepper, they’re awesome, I love mine!

Would I buy this book for myself?

Funny thing is, if the pictures had been in pleasing colours, I probably would. Simply as a reference book to add to my existing library of myths, legends, Pagan Lore, and herbalism. But I find its black and white appearance a tad too dull to waste my limited bookshelf space on. Man I sound mean! I do apologise for that, but this book could just have been so much more than it was and the frustration I am feeling is due to that, not due to a poor quality book. As ‘Plant Lore and Legend’ is NOT a poor quality book. Merely one light on details and facts in areas I was hoping it would cover. My fault entirely!

In Summary – An interesting, but brief, look at some plant lore and legends. Other books give greater detail and stronger information.

Until next time,
Janis.

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