The Lost Apothecary – Sarah Penner

by Bushra

Historical fiction about a murderous apothecary in London who helps women get revenge on the men who oppress them is an intriguing premise but even more so when it alternates with a present day narrative. I can’t lie when I say that the book cover of The Lost Apothecary appealed to me straightaway particularly since the gorgeous hardback book is entirely in my favourite colour, purple, with an intensely beautiful cover design.

After discovering her husband has been cheating on her, Caroline leaves solo for what was meant to be a romantic anniversary trip to London to get some distance only to coincidentally lay her hands on a mysterious apothecary bottle while mudlarking in the River Thames. Her natural research instincts kick in leading her to traverse the back alleys of London to find the source of this cryptic clue to the 18th Century. Alternating between 1791 and the present day, we are introduced to Nella as Eliza, the 12 year old maid of a high society woman, enters the apothecary to request a toxic tincture. Throughout both storylines, we are taken through the dramatic sights and labyrinthine streets of London as well the betrayals faced both by Caroline and Nella.

My Thoughts

The Lost Apothecary is an enjoyable and engrossing book that kept me interested in both narratives. I was, however, more drawn to Caroline’s storyline and in her search for Nella’s apothecary while simultaneously enjoying the subplots of the various upper-middle class women wishing to rid themselves of the oppressive male figures ruling them. I also liked the relationship between  Nella and Eliza as a cross between mother and child as well as student and teacher. Eliza is precocious yet still quite suitably innocent for her age while Nella is marred by the demons of her past which colours her decision to be the murderous apothecary. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, the relationship between Nella and Eliza and the decisions Caroline took to fulfil her potential and follow her dreams. The story is a unique cross between contemporary and historical fiction which is what is so appealing and combined with the backdrop of the seedy parts of central London, it felt very similar to reading The Foundling. I particularly enjoyed Caroline digging into the apothecary’s past and Nella’s brewing of poisons for her clientele.

The Lost Apothecary is undoubtedly feminist fiction that’ll be enjoyed by Stacey Halls fans with the added twist of alternating between past and present narratives of women who have been wronged by men. While it may come across as dark and grim, the writing style and pace of the book means readers won’t be dwelling on the murderous aspects for too long with the suspenseful climax bringing the novel to a satisfying conclusion.

Thoroughly enjoyable, I was glued to the pages and I think many others will be too.

  • I was kindly gifted a copy of The Lost Apothecary by Legend Times. You can purchase a copy from my affiliate link for the Legend Times bookshop here.
  • Publisher: Legend Times

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