Your Preview Verdict: The Herd by Emily Edwards

Your Preview Verdict: The Herd by Emily Edwards

Unputdownable and thought-provoking, The Herd probes the fine line between individual choice and collective responsibility. Perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, Liane Moriarty and The Slap.

You should never judge how someone chooses to raise their child.

Elizabeth and Bryony are polar opposites but their unexpected friendship has always worked. They’re the best of friends, and godmothers to each other’s daughters – because they trust that the safety of their children is both of their top priority.

But what if their choice could harm your own child?

Little do they know that they differ over one very important issue. And when Bryony, afraid of being judged, tells what is supposed to be a harmless white lie before a child’s birthday party, the consequences are more catastrophic than either of them could ever have imagined…

Read some great reviews from our Preview readers here:

Vax or not to vax? That is the question. My child, my choice! How timely the release of Emily Edwards’ debut novel The Herd was. Vaccination is such a hot topic at the moment and this story shows both sides of the argument as best friends debate, battle and live with the choices they make about the health of their children and the affect their decision may have on others. In this case it’s MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) being discussed rather than COVID-19 but the emotions re the pros and cons of vaccination still run high. Bry and Elizabeth are best friends with their husbands and young children, living in suburban England with an eclectic circle of friends. When one of the children gets measles the blame game begins and leads to heated exchanges in court. The novel is interwoven with commentary from unnamed spectators, witnesses and protestors both in and outside the courtroom. This was a beautifully written story and such a page turner that I couldn’t put it down, staying up all night to finish it. The characters were fascinating and well-drawn and the twist at the end shed a whole new light on the drama unfolding. Sarah, NSW, 5 Stars

There’s enough drama, solid characterisation, and emotionally embedded storylines to make The Herd a doubtlessly entertaining and inevitably page-turning novel. However, what makes it an outstanding literary work is the author’s utterly thorough research around the issue, and how she managed to portray both extremist views in the most neutral and non-influential way, which I didn’t think was possible. Edwards’ writing enabled me to empathise with characters with specific worldviews that I have struggled to understand through our genuine issues around the pandemic and vaccination. I cannot say that the author managed to dissuade me either way – I think I’m even more confused now, mainly because I don’t have kids – but I was able to understand one fundamental truth, which I believe Edwards conveyed perfectly: all parents out there, regardless of their decisions, are simply trying their very best to protect their kids. Overall, The Herd is an addictive and utterly consuming page-turning drama that delves into contemporary and relevant societal issues. An excellent read with an astonishing plot twist at the end. 100% recommended. Camila, NSW, 5 Stars

A humdinger of a book! Bryony and Elizabeth share an effortless friendship. The lives of their children, partners and neighbours are interwoven until a miscommunication shatters lives and polarises a community. Ms Edward’s novel is a gift. It’s very much a story for our times, albeit an unintentional one. Her measured narrative empowers us to suspend judgment and allows us empathy for divergent opinions. It takes us from backyard to courtroom and everywhere in between. At the same time, it’s a compelling story in its own right and a significant achievement. I raced through this book and really enjoyed the journey. Karen, VIC, 5 Stars

“My child, my choice” Vaccination is a relevant, complex issue right now. I was excited to read this book and I was not disappointed. This book was beautifully written, and a gripping engaging page turner. I was engrossed and invested in this story, racing towards the end to find out the extent of the impact this tiny white lie was going to have on people’s lives. I love a book that has a moral dilemma, and The Herd really gets you thinking. I especially loved this read, because it was impartial and presented both sides of this controversial issue equally well. Interesting characters, children were likeable, but not so much the parents. I highly recommend this book, and I will be putting it in other people’s hands. Vaccinate or not? Will you follow The Herd? Michelle, SA, 5 Stars

The Herd, Emily Edwards, is a fantastic, timely novel of friendships, choices and what happens when things go horribly wrong due to our choices. Superbly written and a well balanced view of both sides of vaccination and anti vaccination. Emily has done her research, and in turn this novel is a must read! It had me from the get go, and released me 5 hours later when I completed it. Perfect for book clubs who will definitely want to discuss this one much further! Five stars! Rebecca, TAS, 5 Stars

A riveting read that personalises a very hot topic at present. No matter your view on childhood vaccination this book makes you take a step back and re-evaluate all that you have thought were very simple answers. At the end of the novel you can see the other side’s point of view just that little more clearly and have a little empathy for them, which is probably what we all need more of in this current world environment. Frances, NSW, 5 Stars

Wow! I found this book unputdownable. Such a topical issue for now, and really well written. The author has clearly highlighted both sides of the vaccination debate, and the consequences it can have. The characters were well developed, and it was intriguing reading about the issue from different perspectives. Lauren, QLD, 5 Stars

The Herd by Emily Edwards is a masterful piece of thought provoking literature. What a perfect read during our journey through Covid and vaccine hesitancy. Best friends Elizabeth and Bry are polar opposites but their intense friendship works through university, marriages and raising a family and now living in the same close knit community. The story explores the hotly debated topic of childhood vaccination and the parents choice and right not to vaccinated their child . Elizabeth and Bry have very different views on the topic and when a measles outbreak hits their low vaccination rate town of Farley their friendship is truly tested. The author dealt with the topic of vaccination thoughtfully and presented both sides of the argument fairly. Such an amazing debut novel with relatable characters, I could not put the book down! Ilona, VIC, 5 Stars

As parents, from the moment we’re handed that tiny baby bundle, we’re hard wired to protect them. It keeps us awake at night: are they warm enough, fed enough, healthy enough? Friendships are forged in these days: our tribe with whom we share the ups and downs and parenting tips. But what happens when the parenting approach we took for granted turns out not to be the case? And we only find out when it’s our child hurt? This is a well-told, relatable, page turner of a book. Unputdownable, it’s a great summer read. Kylie, SA, 4 Stars

This novel dealt with a very challenging and topical issue in a nuanced way. Characters were very well drawn and complex, and the plot raced along. I liked that the two main characters (whose opposing views on vaccination lay the foundation for the action in the story) were not presented in preachy or didactic ways (as they often are in the media). There is a lot to unpack in this book. It begs to be discussed. Penny, QLD, 4 Stars

This story – set in pre-Covid 2019 – takes one of the most divisive issues of present times – a parent’s choice to not vaccinate their child – and examines it compassionately from all angles. The story is a compelling read and I demolished it in two days. I’m keen to read more from this author. The writing style is in a similar vein to Liane Moriarty – a well observed light surbubanite narrative playing alongside heavier themes such as mental illness, online bullying and vaccinations. “Each one of Jack’s rhythmic snores feels to Elizabeth like a little brag about how pleasurable his sleep is, how f*cking free his mind is. She knows it’s not his fault, knows she should be happy that one of them isn’t going to be cranky in the morning; she just wishes for once it could be her. With an irritable groan she gets out of bed.” This book made me question my own defensive and judgemental views as a parent and in that way was reminiscent of The Slap, but I found the characters in this book much more likeable! Parts had me in floods of tears (I was undone by Charlie and the banner – I mean, I can’t even…), but the book is cleverly broken up between different characters telling their stories which prevented it from getting too heavy. If you like a plot driven book that still makes you think about bigger issues, this read is for you. Given the timely nature of this book, I can see it being a great book club read (provided your book club is a safe space to discuss different perspectives on such a hot topic!). Thank you Better Reading for my preview copy in exchange for an honest review. Sophie, SA, 4 Stars

A well-timed examination of the vaccine “debate” that covers the whole spectrum of thought and opinion. The Herd encourages you to take an empathetic look at the reasoning behind people’s decisions, both pro and against, as well as the murky waters between. Teagan, SA, 4 Stars

The Herd is a very timely read just now with the ongoing pandemic and the hot topic on vaccinations. It follows Bry and Elizabeth who have an unlikely but close friendship, with different views on preventative healthcare for their children. I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would, and it was a refreshing take on vaccinations and the outcomes that may occur as vaccine numbers reduce for many countries. Gemma, WA, 4 Stars

What a clever book. A very divisive subject written with such understanding and empathy but still light enough to be an enjoyable easy read. Truly a must read for all parents. Megan, NSW, 4 Stars

In Emily Edwards’ The Herd the controversial and timely topic of vaccination is explored. Two close friends, both mothers, make decisions based on what they strongly feel is best for their children. These choices lead to a break in the longstanding friendship and eventually an emotionally charged court case. Although, not being a mother, I have not had to make these types of decisions I found this story engrossing and a real page-turner, reminiscent of a Jodi Picoult procedural drama. The two main characters were engaging and sympathy could be felt for both despite their opposing viewpoints. The partners, whose perspectives were depicted sympathetically, contributed to the fullness of this story and demonstrated how these emotive decisions had widespread consequences to all involved. With thanks to @betterreadingau for the uncorrected proof to review. Regina, NSW, 4 Stars

I loved the different point of views in the book and how everything came together towards the end. I loved how innocent Alba still wanted to talk to Jack and Clemmie. The court case defence was a great twist I didn’t see coming. I enjoyed reading both parties preparation and experience through out. I found the italics sections throughout quite confusing at stages because I was unsure whose point of view it was and it gave away that a child ends up in hospital with the stuffed toy. Great book in this current world with COVID vaccine opinions high. Recommend! Tara, WA, 4 Stars

There seems to be a developing in fiction genre of ‘young mums do school/kinder/creche pick-ups and drama ensues’ judging by the number of books I’ve read along these lines. Did it start with The Slap or was it The Mothers’ Group? Then there was Big Little Lies and the more recent The Trivia Night. All entertaining, no doubt about it, especially for those of us who have ‘been there’ (although hopefully with a little less excitement). In this novel, two very different women are close friends, who trust and support each other. Both decide not to vaccinate their children, Elizabeth because of her daughter’s medical conditions and Bry because of her fear of vaccinations. At a community barbeque, Bry tells a ‘little white lie’ to Elizabeth that leads to devastating consequences and ultimately, the courts. Lives and relationships are changed forever. It’s an incredibly topical story that airs many of the moral dilemmas of our COVID age through cracking story telling. A good read that leaves you with much to think about and discuss. Susan, VIC, 4 Stars

Wow! The Herd put so many life questions into my head. With different, yet relatable characters, you can genuinely see everyone’s side of the story. A well written book about relationships, parenting, friendships and choices, that’s hard to put down from beginning to end. This would be a great book for book club as it opens so many discussions. Rebecca, NSW, 4 Stars

What an experience that book was! I read it in two sittings, could easily have been one but it actually got uncomfortable and I had to put it down for a week. I stopped to Google and work out if the author was anti-vax as the anti-vax characters were annoying me so much. When I read that it was actually a fair and balanced discussion, I managed to pick it up again and I’m glad I did. I lost count of how many times I had to put the book down and wipe away tears and catch my breath. I’m not an overly emotional person but anything to do with sick or suffering children is a major trigger for me. While I’m glad the science is respected and there’s no hint of anything validating an anti-vaccination stance, the anti-vax parents actually began to grow on me and I started to understand (though not agree with) some of their opinions. Overall, a devastating experience and a gripping if uncomfortable read. The characters were largely unlikable but quite understandable and it’s definitely worth reading no matter what side of the debate you fall on. Richard, VIC, 4 Stars

Not my kind of story but I did read it. Very one sided story and views and not much of a variety for me, I would have liked a bit more building up and more just more. But other people may love this. It was a fast read and a very simple story. Beth, TAS, 3 Stars

The story of this book was presented in such an interesting way – I really enjoyed the alternating chapters with the extra POVs from unnamed outsiders to the court case, although I think it would have been great for this to all tie-in with the main storyline. The characters weren’t exactly likeable, but the whole thing was compelling enough to continue reading and their unlikeability even made the story more interesting. The story had a great lawyer burn and I love that I didn’t see it coming, even though there was something off – I couldn’t work out what! I felt a bit of vindictive pleasure watching it all play out since all the characters were so over the top in this debacle. But then on the flip side, there is a woman here who really needed post-partum help (as many do) and didn’t get it – and there is something to be said for bringing that to light. Overall the book was enjoyable and contained interesting observations regarding how people react to things they don’t know anything about, how parents think they know more than doctors and the lasting effects that rash decisions and judgments can have on a person’s community. Brit, VIC, 3 Stars

Great concept/theme – I was worried about it being a bit too much in the pandemic context, but pleasantly surprised. An even-handed approach, which was refreshing. You are able to empathise with most of the characters, although their flaws are well highlighted! For fans of The Slap, although I found it a little less relatable, being set in the UK. Anusha, VIC, 3 Stars

The storyline is quite boring in parts, too much description of what people are wearing, and too much swearing. Though it got more interesting as I got through to the middle of the book and started to understand the connections with the characters, I still found that it was quite biased when it came to the subject matter, a touch one yes but without credible evidence, facts or figures it was very opinionated on one side of the vaccination fence. I found the beginning of each chapter with the italics writing hard to understand and how it all fits in, until I basically got to the end of the book, then it all fell into place. The most interesting part for me personally was the last few chapters because I did not relate personally to the characters throughout the book, I did not get the connections and meanings until the end. Linda, VIC, 3 Stars

Publisher details

The Herd
Author
Emily Edwards
Publisher
Penguin
Genre
Fiction
Released
01 February, 2022
ISBN
9781787634879

Synopsis

You should never judge how someone chooses to raise their child.

Elizabeth and Bryony are polar opposites but their unexpected friendship has always worked. They're the best of friends, and godmothers to each other's daughters - because they trust that the safety of their children is both of their top priority.

But what if their choice could harm your own child?

Little do they know that they differ over one very important issue. And when Bryony, afraid of being judged, tells what is supposed to be a harmless white lie before a child's birthday party, the consequences are more catastrophic than either of them could ever have imagined . . .

Emily Edwards
About the author

Emily Edwards

After studying at Edinburgh University, Emily Edwards worked for a think tank in New York before returning to London where she worked as a support worker for vulnerable women at a large charity. She now lives in Lewes, East Sussex with her endlessly patient husband and her two endlessly energetic young sons. The inspiration for The Herd came when she was eight months pregnant with her first son, and her husband and their vaccine-hesitant doula had an impassioned 'debate' about vaccination in their garden. As she sat there with her hands over her huge stomach listening to them both, Emily realized this was an issue which impacts us all and that it would make a brilliant topic for a novel.

Books by Emily Edwards

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