Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Review: THE LOST APOTHECARY by Sarah Penner


Rating: 3.5/5 stars

I’ve had my eye on this book ever since I saw the entrancing cover when it first came out. The Lost Apothecary is a historical fiction novel about a hidden apothecary that caters to women bent on escaping from the oppressive clutches of their husbands: through discreet murder. 

I saw this advertised as historical fantasy, but it’s not; I’ve read books not labeled as fantasy that have more fantastical elements than this book did. The only aspect that even alludes to something magical is that Eliza, a young girl, believes in ghosts, and she also thinks the potions and tinctures are magical, but they’re just doing what any medicine does. There’s no magic in this book, so don’t be misled before you start it. As much as I love all things fantastical, I think this novel was just fine the way it is and doesn’t need magic to make it better. 

I’m glad I picked up The Lost Apothecary because I really enjoyed it. My favorite part was seeing how the two POVs in eighteenth-century England intertwined with and connected to the POV in the present day. The three perspectives we read from are Nella, the apothecary; Eliza, a young girl sent to the apothecary by her mistress and who wants to become an apprentice to Nella; and Caroline, a woman in the modern-day who finds an old apothecary vial in the river and desires to uncover its history. My favorite historical fiction novels are those that have multiple protagonists whose perspectives all weave together, so this was perfect for me. 

I love that this novel was about giving power to women at a time when they didn’t originally have much power. The Lost Apothecary shows how women can triumph over men who are abusing or neglecting them. I thought it was an original and fun idea: women go to this special hidden apothecary to get poison to administer to their unfaithful husbands, etc. I loved being able to read from the apothecary’s POV and see how she came to be in the place that she was. My favorite perspective, however, was Caroline in the present. It is uncanny (but intentional on the author’s part) how many parallels she draws between her own life and the life of the women she reads about in the 1700s. I thought it was so fun to follow her journey of uncovering the history of the vial she found and the history of the apothecary shop. 

Overall, this was an enjoyable historical fiction novel that I would recommend. It’s not my favorite nor is it the best book out there, but I had a good time reading it and would consider reading other works from Sarah Penner in the future. 

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