At the time of her death in 1815, twenty-nine-year-old Ellen Hutchins had catalogued over a thousand species of seaweed and plants from her native Bantry Bay. Ireland’s first female botanist, Ellen was a major contributor to nineteenth-century scientific discovery. And yet, like so many brilliant women lost in history, it is her personal story that will resonate today.
In her remarkable debut novel, Marianne Lee fuses fact with fiction to imagine Ellen’s rich but tormented inner life, repressed by the gender and class confines of her time. Unmarried, childless and sickly, Ellen is considered an ‘unsuccessful’ woman, dutifully bound to her family’s once grand and isolated estate, Ballylickey House. Still, she glimpses a happiness and autonomy she can never quite articulate as she reaches for meaning and expression, until the eruption of a long-simmering family feud and the rise of Ellen’s own darkness – her ‘quiet tide’ – will conspire to destroy her fragile future.
A Quiet Tide is a life examined, a heartbreaking, inspiring story that at last captures the essence and humanity of a long-forgotten Irishwoman.