Settle in friends! Today, I will be covering a tale from a time long ago that includes tinctures, cobbled London streets, scandals, secrets and best of all, a bit of "magick" in The Lost Apothecary review.
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Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But the apothecary’s fate is jeopardized when her newest patron, a precocious twelve-year-old, makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries.
Meanwhile in present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.
"But my mother disagreed. Privately, she would tell me of London's bright colors--the golden steeples of the churches, the peacock blues of the gowns--and of the many peculiar shops and stores in the city. She described exotic animals wearing waistcoats, their handlers ushering them through the city streets, and market stands selling hot almond-cherry buns to a line of customers three dozen deep."- Sarah Penner, The Lost Apothecary
The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner was one of the five Book of the Month's curated book selections available in March 2021. I would be lying to you if I said the beautiful yet intriguing cover did not sway my selection at all. A sucker for a bit of mystery and historical fiction, the synopsis sold me. Click! Once my little blue BOTM box arrived, I immediately opened the package and flipped the cover, greeted by a lovely old London map, circa 1791 (Map Monday opportunity anyone? Just saying).
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The Lost Apothecary is a new release of 2021 and Sarah Penner's debut book. I've been seeing reviews flying left and right on IG and YouTube. I've tried my best to not read or listen to any of the reviews to avoid altering my own impressions of the read. So let's get started, shall we?
This story timelines alternated between two time periods. One towards the end of 18th century London and the other in modern London. Each chapter also took on the perspective of one of three characters. I want to start off by saying weaving together two very different time periods and the perspectives of three main characters is no easy feat. However, Sarah Penner executed and developed the storyline exquisitely.
When I read the book synopsis, the mood of rainy London streets and a dark and dusty apothecary shop flashed in my mind. I wanted to go there to visit. To learn a thing or two about tinctures and dried herbs. I wanted to hear a fire crackling and tinted glass vessels clinking together while medicinal aromas filled the air. I wanted to find out why this apothecary was ... lost? I have to admit, The Lost Apothecary delivered.
I previously mentioned there are three main characters in this story and each chapter takes on a perspective of one of the three. Let me introduce you.
Nella inherited the apothecary shop from her mother. Though, she ran the business quite differently than her mother did. After being scorned and betrayed by the man she loved, she sought revenge by means of her trade. And from there on, decided to help other women secretly sought revenge on men who have betrayed them as well. Even though Nella believes in what she is doing, it comes to her at a cost. Living a secretive and solitude like her body is starting to break down and her mind constantly reminds her of the things she really wanted most in life and will never have.
Eliza is a 12-year-old young woman who recently arrived to London to work at the Amwell's. Her mother sent her away from the family farm to live in the city, so she could have more opportunities and create a better future for herself. Eliza is sent to Nella's shop by her mistress to collect poisonous eggs. While visiting the shop she becomes interested in the apothecary and the "magick" it is capable of.
Caroline visits London in modern day on a solo trip. Originally, Caroline and her husband planned to visit London together for their 10th anniversary. However, prior to the trip Caroline became aware of her husband's infidelity and decided to go on the trip alone. Straying from her original itinerary, she finds her self mud larking. There she finds a little glass vial with a bear etching, and thus the story begins.
Writing Style & Tone
While thinking of what I wanted to include in The Lost Apothecary review, one thing that constantly came to mind was Penner's writing style. Throughout the story, she proved she has the ability to develop a certain type of mood and atmosphere that leaves the reader wanting more. It's hard to believe this was her debut book. I found myself constantly picking up the book whenever I had five minutes to spare because I waned to find out what happened next.
Likes & Dislikes
I'm sure you can tell from The Lost Apothecary review so far, I've really enjoyed this read and liked most of what it had to offer. But since nothing is without its flaws, there was just one thing that I found a little off. And that was at the end of the story of how Caroline made sense of the entire apothecary murder mystery. I won't say anymore to avoid any spoilers. But I think you'll get what I'm hinting at.
Recommendation & Rating
I thoroughly enjoyed this read. I would recommend it to others who take a liking to historical fiction, murder mysteries, or moody atmospheres. I rate this The Lost Apothecary 4.5 out of five stars.
About the Author:
The debut author of The Lost Apothecary, to be translated into sixteen-languages worldwide. She works full-time in finance, is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women's Fiction Writers Association. She and her husband live in St. Petersburg, Florida with their miniature dachshund, Zoe.
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