Normally, I would expect to read at least 3 books when I’m on holiday but this year I only managed 2. That’s still a decent number for a week but I just had an idea of what I’d get through. Thankfully, I managed to finish this book, which was definitely something I needed to finish this week. Mostly because I doubted my ability to finish it during a work week. Which isn’t to say that I had low expectations for it. I was really excited to read this book because it felt so timely. The anti-vax movement has been around for ages but it was never more apparent than during the recent Covid pandemic. Especially with all of the fake science being shared on social media. Confirmation bias is one of the greatest problems facing society right now and I was really interested to see where this narrative would go.
There was a lot of potential for this book. What happens when two friends disagree on one fundamental issue and it hurts someone they love? Elizabeth and Bryony have always been unlikely friends but they have always made it work. That is until Bryony makes one decision that changes all of their lives. The two women have different opinions on vaccines. It’s not something that has been an issue for them until one fateful day. A quick decision and a half-truth have bitter consequences that will see the two women on opposite sides of a battle that goes far beyond two mothers.
Despite my excitement for this book, I ended up disappointed. Firstly, I don’t think the structure really added anything to the story. The narrative is split between Elizabeth and Byrony’s perspectives leading up to the big events but it is also split up by the POVs of bystanders after everything kicked off. These little mini-chapters were interesting and I think it would have been fun to see the story told through these snippets. Added together with the other perspectives, they just ruined the pace a bit. I know that this was intended to build suspense and create mystery. I just don’t think it was necessary. It’s not as if we don’t know where this is going.
In terms of the narrative, the book doesn’t take a strong stance either way and I understand why that might be the preferred way to write this. After all, taking a strong stance, either way, would have created some real fallout However, I also think this was a bit of a cop-out considering how divisive the topic is. Emily Edwards has taken a relevant topic and written a book that sits on the fence. I just don’t really see the point in it. It doesn’t even add much to the conversation. Instead, The Herd just regurgitates the different arguments and does nothing with them. In the end, this book starts slowly and has a weak ending. There was a lot of pressure on the stuff in the middle to hold it together.
Overall, this isn’t a terrible book but I can’t pretend I was as engaged as I’d expected. It wasn’t as emotionally fraught or dramatic as I’d prepared myself for. It was just a relatively tame portrait of a contentious issue. Rather than being a hard-hitting narrative I’d hoped for, it was all just very basic. The characters weren’t really developed beyond their initial stereotypes, the portrayal of marriage seems particularly outdated and the story doesn’t delve into the topic at all. The Herd is surface level. I definitely wanted more from this one.