Millions of women around the world read with horror and indignation the fate of Margaret Atwood’s protagonists. Meanwhile, this fictional story does not even do justice to the treatment of women of peasant origin in 19th-century Galicia. Incapacitated objects of noble games and intrigues – that’s what they were. Among them was Katja, a knowledge-hungry herbalist, the heroine of Magda Skubisz’s novel, who only wanted to help people and acquire new medical knowledge. And it was for this that she was faced with monstrosities.
In the second volume of the Tyszowski family saga, entitled “The Devil’s Garden”, Katja finds herself in an unenviable position. The envious Augusta, mistress of the Kowalski family, sharpening her claws at Antoni Tyszowski, cruelly and mercilessly torments the girl in order to move her away from the lord in love with her. She does not stop at nothing in achieving her goals and is capable of even the vilest deeds. Is Toni able to help the girl? Will his difficult character and class prejudices prevail over his love for Sarenko? These are the questions that we ask ourselves while reading Devil’s Garden.
Photo: Media Family Publishing House
And I must honestly admit that we are really looking forward to the answers to them. Skubisz has already proved in the first volume that she can write and hold the reader on the edge of a chair, and in the continuation of the story it only confirms this. He creates interesting, extraordinary characters with their advantages and disadvantages that truly live on the pages of the book and stay in our memory for a longer time. What’s more, it can weave them into a well-defined landscape of Galicia, full of contrasts, where great rulers spend more on vodka than the whole village costs, and peasants die of hunger in musty huts. Thanks to this, we do not have the impression that it is a common romance novel, but a valuable and interesting story. The love theme is full of twists and turns, it is not banal, and the author has not deprived it of a specific finesse, which makes it credible and interesting. It is also not included in a simple mesalliance scheme. Because the problems of a couple in love lie even deeper – in the difference of difficult characters and the need to communicate with each other.
Against the background of all the characters from which Augusta, like a kind of Nemesis, definitely stands out, the title “Apothecary” shines the most, of course,
Katja, a brave and steadfast girl, an ordinary peasant with great herbal (and even medical) knowledge, is a heroine we cheer for and whom we wish for a quick improvement in her difficult fate.
What happens to her from mean and envious people arouses extreme feelings in readers.
Antoni Tyszkowski, an aggressive drunk, still has a long way to go to transform himself into a positive hero, but this only adds to his kmicic charm. We hope that he will mature enough to help the chosen one of his heart.
The author of the book has also put a lot of effort into historical research. The realities of the epoch he describes are rendered with integrity and diligence. But these are not dry facts – Skubisz breathed life into Galicia: we smell the scents of peasant coats or noble hands scented with jasmine. We see the interiors of the mansions, their shoddy, gilded decorations shock us when the sun shines on them. We feel as if we were in them together with the heroes. Although sometimes we would not want to …
I heartily recommend “Devil’s Garden” to all fans of the first part of the series, ie “Pharmacists”, because they will not be disappointed. I would like to add that the second volume is even more interesting, more mature and interesting. And all those who have not yet had the opportunity to see the series published by Bitter Chocolate, I encourage you to start your adventure with the saga of the Tyszkowski family. The novel reads great, and its feminist overtones allow for an even deeper look at the struggle for women’s rights and how much has been achieved in this field during these two centuries. And how much had to be fought for the girls to live their own lives. Katja is a kind of bridge with the past, thanks to which, despite the fact that the time of the novel takes us back almost one hundred and fifty years, we feel connected and we have someone to identify with. I will be waiting impatiently for the next novels by Magda Skubisz.