Book Reviews

Book Review : The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

Title : The Lost Apothecary
Author : Sarah Penner
Publisher : Legend Press
Pages : 320
Genre : Historical Fiction

Story :

A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.
Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose—selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

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Review :

I don’t know where to begin. This book was everything I didn’t know that I needed. I have been a fan of historical fiction for a long time but this one stood out. Not only did I connect deeply with the characters, but I also felt really close to all of them. Nella begins narrating the story, where she introduces her Apothecary to us. It is a seemingly harmless place meant for the manufacture and sale of medicinal tinctures for ailing folks all around London. However, under the shadows of the upper shroud lies a deadly abode for those women who seek revenge on the men who have wronged them. It wasn’t always like that. It was just a humble place, when Nella’s mother ran the place. However, with her sudden demise and Nella left alone to her own misery, things went downhill. If it wasn’t for an ancient betrayal, and Nella’s heart which was left to bleed incessantly that she started brewing these poisons for those who are afflicted similarly.

Then we are introduced to Caroline, who is on a vacation in present day London. Her predicament isn’t far from that of Nella’s, for she too has been a victim of betrayal quite recently. What connects these two souls is just a small blue vial that Caroline scours from the side banks of the Thames when she goes mudlarking totally by coincidence (or should I say fate?) Now here’s an important expression that I learnt only from this book. I didn’t know what mudlarking was, and when I read about it, I was only more fascinated. There’s only a small image of a bear engraved on it. That’s all that takes Caroline to dig up the past.


Lastly, there’s Eliza. Oh how very adorable is she! I judged her initially. I reprimanded her for being naive (only after a point), but then things changed. It made me realise sometimes we should just let the younger souls do their thing. It might seem stupid, impossible and the most ridiculous thing to do, but we should give innocence play its part where it’s supposed to.

I cannot possibly express how much I love this book. Sarah Penner’s prose is beautiful and her narrative is not only immersive but also lyrical. I recommend this book to one and all!

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