Review – The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner is a story about the unlikely relationship between a woman who dispenses poison to other women in need of ridding themselves of the tyranny of the men in their lives, and a naïve twelve-year old girl who finds herself in the middle of this deceitful and dangerous world.
Sarah Penner’s novel is loosely based on 18th and 19th century historical records from England that show that many individuals have died due to poisoning. She set The Lost Apothecary about fifty years before toxicologists were able to reliably detect poison in human tissue.
The novel itself, however, wants to be so much more than just a story of women who saw poison as the only way out of unhealthy relationships. There are three different voices and two different timelines in the book. Caroline is a young historian who discovers a tiny blue vial in the river Thames and starts searching for its origin. Nella, the apothecary and Eliza, a young child live in the 1790s and their paths cross multiple times in unexpected ways. On the surface both stories are about the apothecary and the poisons dispensed by her. However, if we care to dig deeper, we will find that the novel also sheds light on the damage secrets can cause on the human soul and on how repressing one’s true nature leads to a series of unfortunate choices.
I found Nella and Eliza’s story much more interesting than that of Caroline’s because it showed me a world I had never even heard about. That being said, I have to tell you that while The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner wasn’t a bad read, I found it lacking in many respects. The major thing that I didn’t like about it was how similar the three women’s voices sounded. It’s not enough to have three different names, the characters need to differ greatly in speech and way of thinking. At least, for me. Otherwise, I cannot really convince myself of the characters’ authenticity. Which is precisely what happened here. I found Eliza’s way of expressing herself too mature for age and social status (even if she did know how to read and write).
Sarah Penner’s The Lost Apothecary is not going to be my favorite book, but it isn’t the worst I’ve read either. I will give it a Three Fox rating, mainly because I enjoyed the parts about Nella and Eliza’s relationship and about Nella’s backstory. 🦊🦊🦊
What surprised you the most about The Lost Apothecary?
How do you think Caroline’s story relates to that of the other two women?
What do you think about Caroline’s decision to keep some of her findings a secret?
What do you think about the ending and Nella’s ‘vision’?
You can find this book on:
You can read some of my other reviews here.
As always, thank you for reading! 💙