Botanist Ellen’s inspiring story is told in debut

July 17th, 2020 5:50 PM

By Southern Star Team

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THE tormented life of West Cork’s Ellen Hutchins, the country’s first female botanist, is examined in a new novel.

At the time of her death in 1815, twenty-nine-year-old Ellen Hutchins had catalogued 1,000 species of seaweed and plants from her native Bantry Bay andwas 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 debut novel, A Quiet Tide, 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 heart-breaking, inspiring story that at last captures the essence and humanity of a long-forgotten Irishwoman.

The book is available in bookshops nationwide and also online at

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