Viper Wine

A Novel

Viper Wine book cover
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“Using an alchemy all of her own, Eyre’s postmodern take on the 17th century renders it dazzlingly fresh and contemporary.” —Guardian (UK)
Venetia Stanley was the great beauty of her day, so dazzling she inspired Ben Jonson to poetry and Van Dyck to painting. But now she is married, the adoration to which she has become accustomed has curdled to scrutiny, and she fears her powers are waning. Her devoted husband, Sir Kenelm Digby—explorer, diplomat, philosopher, alchemist— refuses to prepare a beauty tonic for her, insisting on her continued perfection.

Venetia, growing desperate, secretly engages an apothecary to sell her “viper wine”—a strange potion said to bolster the blood and invigorate the skin.  The results are instant, glorious, and addictive, and soon the ladies of the court of Charles I are looking unnaturally youthful. But there is a terrible price to be paid, as science clashes with magic, puritans rebel against the decadent monarchy, and England slides into civil war.

Based on real events and written with anachronistic verve, Viper Wine is an intoxicating brew of love, longing and vanity, where the 17th and 21st centuries mix and mingle in the most enchanting and mind-bending ways.


Nominated for the Folio Prize
Nominated for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction

"Daring...Beauty is the beast in British author Hermione Eyre's 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."—Elle

“A biting tale of age-obsession and vanity way before Botox.” —Cosmopolitan

"Viper Wine 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."Bustle

"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 OrlandoViper Wine is a historic fantasy reminding us of the limitless reaches of the imagination."—BookPage

“Fascinating…A fact-filled fiction that entertains and enlightens.”—Library Journal 
“Eyre’s confident debut novel expertly combines historical fact with modern-day invention…An engrossing take on a timeless subject.”—Publishers Weekly

International Praise for Viper Wine
“Audacious…Using an alchemy all of her own, Eyre's postmodern take on the 17th century renders it dazzlingly fresh and contemporary.”—Guardian (UK)
Viper Wine offers up a potent mixture of baroque intricacy and gothic horror…The stylistic brio and technical invention on show here is truly impressive…Eyre’s poise and control make her easily the equal of most historical novelists, but it’s her vision of worlds bleeding into worlds and her probing and pastiching of 17th-century style that are truly exciting. Viper Wine is an enormously impressive debut.”—Telegraph (UK)
“Hermione Eyre pulls off a notable trick in Viper Wine, not just by reconstructing her chosen period but rendering it permeable to intrusions from other ages…Playful…A meticulously luscious fantasia on a theme of English high life in the 1630s...Gorgeous.”—Times Literary Supplement
“Exuberantly inventive and intelligent…Sumptuous, strange and startlingly original.”—Mail on Sunday (UK)
“Playful, witty and expansive… an exceptionally clever and exhilarating excursion through Caroline high society, filled with echoes and anticipations of our own times.” Sunday Times
“It sounds mad, and it is, but Eyre has worked her own magic to ensure it is so in an entrancing and perfectly plausible way…. Eyre’s attention to tone and detail is flawless. Viper Wine is a dazzling postmodern baroque carnivalesque.”—The National (UAE)
“As an allegory of our ageing-obsessed generation, [Viper Wine] is hard to argue with.”—Harper’s Bazaar
“Eyre is a clever historian and a cunning writer of dialogue. She also understands what makes a fun, sexy read…A wickedly funny parable of today’s beauty industry…Well-researched and completely mad…with moments of descriptive brilliance and breathtaking cleverness.”—The Times (UK)
“[A] cornucopia of a novel…Would I recommend it? Certainly.”—Daily Mail (UK)
 “[A] psychedelic trip of a novel… Untiringly carnivalesque…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.”—London Evening Standard
“Eyre’s manipulation of history is as funny as it is surreal.” Financial Times (UK)
““No account of [Van Dyck] has perhaps been so convincing as that in Viper Wine. . . An intoxicating fantasy in which real-life characters are haunted by the future…Evocative…As art history it’s deeply unorthodox—but as a postmodern portrait of a trend-setting painter in the midst of a comeback, it seems both thrillingly and entertainingly right.”—Independent (UK)
“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.”—Country Life

“Viper Wine is a rich, raucous ride through 17th century London, a city obsessed with power, revenge and vanity.”—Stylist Magazine
“Eyre has written a sumptuous, sensual tale of beauty and vanity; it’s crying out for a TV adaptation.”—Bookseller
"Magical realism meets a seventeenth-century Portrait of a Marriage. To say it is dazzling would be a puritan understatement."--Tom Holland, author of Rubiconand Persian Fire
"Persistently bizarre, fecund, technically inventive, funny - and oddly touching."--Jonathan Meades
"Viper Wine richly evokes Elizabethan and Jacobean language and is alert to the plight of Catholics under Elizabeth I and King James, while at the same time putting a post-modernist spin on the tight and enthralling plot. I used to be dubious about alchemy and antiquarianism, but the wit and excitement of this first novel breathes new life into them."--Tom Paulin

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