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The Lost Apothecary (2021)

de Sarah Penner

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1,0146315,565 (3.69)31
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Let me begin by saying that two of my not-so-favorite things in books are historical mysteries and historical fiction using the hackneyed formula of one woman in the present discovering something about a woman in the past. [The Lost Apothecary] fits into both categories. Nevertheless, I finished it and even enjoyed parts of it. The main problem for me was the modern-day story, which I found to be both trite and annoying.

A few days before Caroline Parcewell and her husband are about to embark on a trip to London to celebrate their 10th anniversary, Caroline discovers that James has been unfaithful. Of course, as expected, he first denies doing anything wrong, then says it was a stupid mistake and begs for forgiveness. Broken-hearted, Caroline decides to take the trip on her own. There, she ponders her resentments, not just of the affair but of the fact that she gave up a chance to earn a Master's degree in history at Cambridge, opting to support James in his career instead, went to work in her family's business, and put off having a baby until James deemed that the time was right. I got really tired of all the wah, wah, wah. You made stupid choices; get over it and move on (which, of course, she does before the end of the book).

On her first day in London, Caroline joins a group of mudlarkers and, of course, finds an interesting artifact: a glass vial engraved with the figure of the bear. The group leader just happens to have a daughter who works at the British Museum and advises her to drop by to see if she can help. This sparks Caroline's old interest in history, and she becomes determined to uncover the secrets of the "lost" 18th-century apothecary.

While Nella's story is much more interesting, it certainly has its flaws. Nella's mother, a "white witch" type of apothecary. had taught her daughter the trade, but a bad experience with a bad, bad man (almost all of the men in the novel are horrible) turned Nella into a murderer, and she started a practice in a secret back room to help rid other women of the problematic men in their lives. It is through the course of helping one of these women that Nella meets 12-year old Eliza, a servant sent to pick up the "remedy." Eliza begs to learn the apothecary's trade, but she is actually more enamoured of "magic" than medicine. The two have a push-me/pull-me relationship: Nella wants to send the girl away yet needs her help and is drawn to her as to the daughter she never had.

So blah blah blah, and Caroline hides her discoveries and bonds with Nella over their mutual betrayals by the men they loved. She even finds herself accused of trying to bump off her annoying husband James. Of course, she becomes Her Own Woman in the end, planning the future she always REALLY wanted. In short, the author should have dropped the boring cliché of Caroline and James and stuck with the Nella-Eliza plotline.

Writing this review has made me realize that I liked this book even less than I thought I had. It follows a tired formula, the writing is mediocre and the dialogue not always fitting for the time period, it screams I AM WOMAN, and one of the main characters annoyed the heck out of me. Throwing in magical elements only made it worse. ( )
  Cariola | Oct 14, 2021 |
The premise of the book was interesting but, in the end, it was a bit amateurish for my tastes. The characters seemed a little too pat and the storyline a bit too predictable. I also found it implausible how much Caroline was able to deduce based on so little information and so quickly, too. ( )
  DidIReallyReadThat | Oct 14, 2021 |
Secrets, magic, disguises...it's all here.

The book has two timelines. In the present day, Caroline begins a trip from the Midwest to London to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary - alone. Her husband, James, admitted to an affair just before she left. As she's walking in the city, she stumbles upon someone encouraging her to join a tour group of mudlarkers searching for something that may turn up from the river. She joins them and with luck she ends up with a 200-year-old blue vial. Now as a historian she wants to find out where it came from.

Meanwhile, Nella, in 1791 has an Apothecary Shop with a hidden area in the back where she develops and sells poisons to women. Her mother started the business as a place of healing for women with "remedies of the sweet, fertile earth." One day, a 12-year-old girl, Eliza, shows up wanting to help her. It was great until Lady Clarence asked Nella for a poison to kill her husband's mistress. The reader has no choice but to find out what comes next.

I picked this book up after hearing a lot of good reviews. It's original and moves along rather quickly. I ended up learning about poisons during this period of time when they were secretly used. It was satisfying with an ending that came together. ( )
  Jacsun | Oct 5, 2021 |
I know you can't please everyone. It's not often I write book reviews, because I think I'm a very picky reader in that I don't like most of the books others seem to love. But to me, The Lost Apothecary is a perfect book.

By that I mean, of course, perfect for me. Dual timeline, strong women, men getting their due, and being able to step back in time to a world that felt real and dangerous. No spoilers, but I loved the unexpected twists at the end as well as the ending. Sarah Penner is one of my new favorites and I eagerly await more from her. ( )
  WriterChris | Oct 5, 2021 |
I loved this! It lived up to all the rave reviews, and checked all the boxes for me. I couldn't put it down and highly recommend. I agree with author Kate Quinn, who says: "Sarah Penner convincingly weaves three heroines and two timelines into one tale of poison, revenge, and the silent network of women helping other women in a world stacked against them...a bold, edgy, accomplished debut!" ( )
  PhyllisReads | Oct 4, 2021 |
Es mostren 1-5 de 63 (següent | mostra-les totes)
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"I SWEAR AND PROMISE BEFORE
GOD, AUTHOR AND CREATOR OF ALL THINGS...

NEVER TO TEACH UNGRATEFUL PERSONS OR FOOLS
THE SECRETS AND MYSTERIES OF THE TRADE...

NEVER TO DIVULGE THE SECRETS CONFIDED TO ME...
NEVER TO ADMINISTER POISONS...

TO DISAVOW AND SHUN AS A PESTILENCE THE SCANDALOUS
 AND PERNICIOUS OF QUACKS,
EMPIRICS AND ALCHYMISTS...

AND TO KEEP NO STALE OR BAD DRUG IN MY SHOP.

MAY GOD CONTINUE TO BLESS ME
SO LONG AS I CONTINUE TO OBEY THESE THINGS!"

---ANCIENT APOTHECARY'S OATH
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For my parents
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She would come at daybreak--the woman whose letter I held in my hands, the woman whose name I did not yet know.
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This glass object---delicate and yet still intact, somewhat like myself---was proof that I could be brave, adventurous, and do hard things on my own.
"First, there was trust. Then, there was betrayal. You cannot have one without the other. You cannot be betrayed by someone you do not trust."
History doesn't record the intricacies of woman's relationships with one another; they're not to be uncovered.
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Mitjana: (3.69)
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