Catherine Edmunds

Novelist and Poet

Catherine's other books in print

Wormwood, Earth and Honey

Catherine Edmunds' poems are embedded in the natural world and veer between fantasy and romance, with a dash of humour. Her artwork embraces such diverse themes as delicate portraiture and exploding beetroots. 


This, her first poetry collection, is accessible but never trivial: warm, earthy, intelligent and – just when you begin to snuggle into the intimacy of it – spiked with fire and venom.

wormwood, earth and honey can be ordered from all online or bricks and mortar bookstores worldwide.

Small Poisons, the contemporary novel for midsummer night's dreamers,  can be ordered from all online or bricks and mortar bookstores worldwide Alternatively, signed copies may be ordered from the author by emailing cathyedmunds[at]msn[dot]com.

With charm, wit and magical style, Catherine Edmunds conjures a fairy tale for grown-ups, a fantasy with its feet firmly on the ground... in a place where dreams and stark reality meet.
-Neil Marr, BeWrite Books 

I expected skilful writing, imagination and a plot to make my eyeballs pop and was definitely not disappointed. You've created a magical world with some fantastic characters and lots of surprises, and it all hangs together beautifully. Awesome work.
-Author Jan Harris

Small Poisons, written by Catherine Edmunds, is an organically grown story sprayed with esoteric dementia.
The y chromosomes grasping tenaciously at misinterpreted reality -- the Dad's donation, and the x chromosomes gurgling with a psychopathic tendency to play at wielding butcher's knives, being Mom's contribution -- the offspring stand little chance of being normal. Beyond his years, the younger son dabbles in different personalities while the elder brother struggles socially with stupidity and a bulimia for cyber-porn; he is somewhat behind in years. All is less than hunky-dory when matters take a turn with the visitation of a Garden Demon. A handsome fellow with exotic terrorist eyes, under whose influence the familial flagons of individual mental inadequacies burst, splashing from one to the other. The froth turns contagious; a singular non-specific meld of composting madness now takes a hold, spreading to all members of our unhappy little family. To make matters worse, if possible, the Demon who is having an affair [yes an affair] with a beetle [yes a beetle] is a poet. A bad one. 
The book is dedicated to Charles Ross. Charles Ross is a variety of apple tree. Surprisingly weird? Weird is not the word, though soon all becomes crystal unclear as the story zig-zags between house and garden. Inside and outside juxtaposed; flora and fauna capable of intelligent thought and herbaceous souls with a collective conscience and a philosophical bent, contrasting with the humans tamped in a mire of pretentious earthiness. Not surprising is the full suspension of disbelief as Edmunds skilfully brings intelligent interaction between all life forms. Step aside Mr Kipling and his pack of wolves -- over here even the blades of grass have an opinion that counts. 
With a plethora of bugs and weeds and bushes and birds, all individual characters in the garden masterly developed, a theme-song most fitting for the tale could be: English Country Garden.
How many kinds of sweet flowers grow
How many insects come here and go
How many songbirds fly to and fro
Whistle the tune softly to imbue confidence as you venture out -- there may well be a Garden Demon in your apple tree.

How all is resolved is of lesser importance, as to travel hopefully through Small Poisons is better than to arrive. It's worth reading to find out, though. Definitely.

Daniel Abelman

can be ordered from all online or bricks and mortar bookstores worldwide.

This is a compulsive read. A story with impact. Vivid, important and highly-readable.

Superficially it is a book about relationships. Victoria goes through two love affairs, neither of which bring more than transitory happiness. Finally she tracks down the one who will accept and understand, share and encourage her art.

But there is more; much more. The love theme is a hook, albeit an enjoyable hook, on which to hang the parallel themes of self-honesty and the bedrock nature of Art.

The question of honesty first. For most of the novel Victoria is poised on a knife edge of pretence, trying to shape herself into the sort of woman she imagines her lovers want her to be, weaving  her life on a pattern of white lies. From time to time the 'real' Victoria erupts, as violently as the curry she vomits up after an evening of too much pretence, but for the most part it's hidden. "The problem," she says, "is when I'm honest he sees the real me... People don't like the real me. I'm not very nice." Ultimately, as at the end of a quest, she does find the one who not only brings out the worst in her but rejoices at what he finds.

There is nothing static in this novel. The reader journeys with Victoria on trains and tubes to bookshops, art galleries, concert halls, exhibitions, restaurants, castles, cathedrals, beaches and gardens. We go backwards and forwards, on this serpentine quest, from London to Durham to Northumberland.

Something that struck me, the more I read the novel, is how carefully and how tightly constructed it is. A true story teller is at work here. Not a word is wasted: every detail contrives to create emotional cliff-hangers, move us further along on the journey. Weather is not just a backcloth to plot; it is both character and mood. On the beach by Bamburgh Castle the wind is 'viciousï' (exactly how Victoria feels), when she travels back to London, lonely and depressed, it is 'a drear grey day of sludge and sleet.' A later fog turns everything monochrome.

London itself reflects the switches in Victoria's emotions. When she is creative, absorbed in her art, the city is 'hot, smelly, noisy'; and she loves it. She feels she is 'home' and revels in 'the peeling plane trees and stink of diesel from the buses, and the grease from burger bars mingled with the aroma of Italian coffee.' Later, when forced to churn out picture cards of St Paul's for money, she notices the towpath is free of dog dirt. 'Very pretty,' she thinks, 'but souless.'

Crucial to the book is its startling imagery of wounds; open wounds that fester, need to be dealt with, wounds that leave scars.

This brings me back to the theme of Art which is pivotal. On one level it reflects the different characters and the fissures in relationships: porcelain is used as a metaphor for Simon who is beautiful as a Greek god but prefers representational to abstract art, who likes to recognise the image at first glance and 'get' the story, who would take Victoria with him into a world of 'precision and careful colour to be dusted on a daily basis.' Victoria herself is epitomised in the colours and textures of paint; the 'slick shiny surface ... the spicy aroma of multiple colours ... the depth of fire without light.' Somewhere in all this, she realises, lies 'the intimate landscape' that she seeks.

But Art in this novel is more than an adjunct to character development. It is the 'granite' of life and 'fractals gone mad.' It is life in a Friedrich landscape where figures are faceless, turn their backs on us, gaze alone into the ice and abyss.

The heart of this book lies in the Tate Modern. The story begins there, with Doris Salcedo's 'Shibboleth'; the crack in the floor that sets up the image of the gaping wound. At the end of the book the scar is filled in but its outline is still visible. No clichéd solutions, no easy healing here. We move, as Victoria does, into Miroslaw Balka's installation 'How it is' which may be seen as a void, an end to all things, but which to Victoria is 'a real cathedral' on a 'strange and revelatory day.'

This is a multi-faceted, rich and stunning book. Go and follow the lines of the cracks, delve into the layers; there are many, many more.

 Mandy Pannett. April 2012

amazon review by 
Angela Bodine

What struck me most about this book: I'm no artist, but while reading this book I felt like one. And, although I've never been to England, I was transported there.

This is a beautiful tale of self-discovery, art and passion. I won't provide a long description of plot here. 'Serpentine' is much more than a well-written love story. Take it as a painting hanging in a gallery; I could tell you what feelings it inspired in me, but it would be much more fun if you explored and interpreted it yourself. It's a riveting journey.

Review by author 
David Gardiner
The full version of this review is published by Gold Dust Magazine.

...This is not a story about a young artist's love affairs, happiness or physical or emotional wellbeing. It refers to those things, but its theme is much bigger. The clue is in the opening quotation from Nietzsche. Another quotation that kept coming to mind was one from Aristotle's Ethics that we kicked around in a seminar many decades ago: 'What can be the good of each but that in whose name all else is done?'. What is it that really matters about an individual or about life itself? What are the terminal values, the things that are good in themselves and require no further justification, and what are the lower order values that exist to serve these?

The fact of the matter is, it doesn't matter whether I like Victoria, or even whether Victoria likes herself. It doesn't matter whether she is a bit of a bastard or whether the man she ends up with is a bit of a bastard too. It doesn't even matter whether they are happy together or whether their relationship is tempestuous and destructive. Those are all lower-order considerations and not what the novel is about. The novel, quite simply, is about art. It is, I think, an examination of the conditions under which art flourishes, and the conditions under which it withers and atrophies. Once I had grasped that basic fact everything else fell into place, and I found myself in awe of the skill with which the thesis had been constructed.

In some respects Edmunds makes heavy demands of her readers, but she gives a great deal in return. It is a novel that you often want to argue with, full of characters that you want to take aside and tell to lighten up, or grow up, or stop hurting one another, or stop expecting the impossible from human relationships. It forces you to take sides, and to examine your own beliefs about what the proper task of life should be. And this is accomplished through elegant prose, and without a wasted word or a dull moment. Is it reasonable to ask any more of a novel?

Bacchus Wynd is the gripping prequel to SERPENTINE, available now from all online or bricks and mortar bookstores worldwide

In Bacchus Wynd, Cathy Edmunds has given us a character with Asperger’s who is not there for comic relief, or as a plot device, or as a problem to be solved, but as a character alongside other characters. Like them, he must find his own answer to the question of how well we can ever really know each other, and whether it is ever safe to allow others to know us."  Joanne Limburg.