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“Kae stretched out her hands and snatched the cold, wet flowers. One after the other she picked them in defiance, as she was too upset merely to contemplate their rapaciousness and beauty. ‘Do you know the name of that flower?’ inquired a voice overhead. Kae had been too engrossed to hear footsteps. Clutching the flowers, the frightened girl stiffened, looked up at her husband, and tried to concentrate on the question.”

From “The Doctor’s Wife” by Sawako Ariyoshi, translated by Wakako Hironaka and Ann Siller Kostant (Kodansha International)

Korean morning glory, a species of datura, is poisonous. It belongs to the large Solanum family of plants, which includes tomato and the deadly nightshade. Originally from India, it arrived in Japan during the Edo Period (1603-1867) and was used to treat asthma. Ariyoshi’s compelling novel is based on the true story of a Japanese doctor who created one of the first general anesthetics, using potentially deadly herbs.