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The Lost Apothecary (2021)

de Sarah Penner

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7315223,167 (3.74)21
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Mostrando 1-5 de 52 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The protagonist takes a trip, that was supposed to be celebratory, and finds herself researching an old ointment bottle. The story is enjoyable and gripping. ( )
  cwells3 | Jul 28, 2021 |
The Lost Apothecary is about a historical hunt for the truth and finding yourself amidst chaos. An enjoyable read that is a bit predictable at times. Will be great for people who like their mysteries without gore and trauma. ( )
  wellreadcatlady | Jul 16, 2021 |
I listened to this book on audio. I think that this was a very good way to enjoy this tale, and that was mostly because of the great job that the narrators did while reading the book. The book is written in two time zones--1791 and present day London. When Caroline flees from her husband of 10 years after discovering that he had had an affair, she hops on a plane to England, using one of the plane tickets that her parents had given her and James for their anniversary. While in London Caroline attaches herself to a "mud-larking" group and while digging in the muddy bottom of the Thames during low tide, finds a pale blue bottle with the figure of a bear engraved on it. Caroline loves delving into history to try to unearth untold stories and mysteries, so this discovery sets her on way to try to discover the story behind the vial. We slip back and forth into 1791 and meet Nella and Eliza, and hear about Nella's profession as an apothecary and the medicines and tinctures that she dispenses to aid women who are ill or sick at heart. Her back room is where she concocts dangerous poisons to help women get rid of unwanted and odious husbands, fathers or sons who are hurting them or other women. All the medicines that Nella dispenses are meticulously detailed in her ledger. Eliza, a 12-year-old girl who is running an errand for her mistress, enters the shop in order to pick up one of Nella's poisons which is intended for her mistress' philandering husband. And so begins a strange and lasting friendship. When Nella is in danger of being discovered and of having all her crimes uncovered, Eliza sets out to help her. As this story unwinds we go back to present-day times and hear about the efforts that Caroline has made researching the vial that she had found, and we hear a lot about her thoughts about her husband's affair at the same time. The reason that I have given this book three stars instead of four is because of the constant rehashing of male perfidy and the grief that they cause all women all the time. At least it appears that all men are terrible because this book never once mentions anything good at all about any man. This, in my opinion, skews the story so much that it spoiled the story for me. The author made it quite clear that she thinks that all men are heels and not a one is worth a damn. I don't enjoy it when an author uses a fiction book as a platform to exhort their own opinions. ( )
  Romonko | Jul 16, 2021 |
I wanted to like this book more than I did, based on the reviews. I thought the story in the past was more interesting than the one in the present. ( )
  jgmencarini | Jul 12, 2021 |
This book is for readers wanting a light, entertaining read, providing they are content not to analyze too much.

The novel has two time periods and three perspectives. In 1791 London, we meet Nella Clavinger, an apothecary who, from her hidden shop, provides poisons to women wanting to rid themselves of abusive men in their lives. One day, Eliza Fanning, a twelve-year-old lady’s maid, comes for poison requested by her mistress. The two develop an unexpected friendship. Both Nella and Eliza’s points of view are given. In contemporary London, we meet Caroline Parcewell. She and her husband were to be celebrating their 10th anniversary in London, but she recently learned of his infidelity so took the trip on her own. She goes mudlarking, discovers an apothecary’s vial, and sets out to find out more about it because of its unusual marking.

The book starts strong but I started losing patience and interest with the oh-so-convenient plot turns. Nella keeps a register in which she records all the transactions, in essence naming both the murderer and victim. Her rationale is that she wants to preserve “the memory of these women in the register – granting them their single, indelible mark on the world” because “the existence of these women . . . would otherwise be erased from history.” Despite the fact that numerous women know of the shop’s existence, she thinks it’s safe to keep this register, that any woman’s “’secret is safe in here’”?! It’s also troubling that Nella never asks questions of her clients; she doesn’t question to determine if they want to kill a man because of self-interest or because of self-preservation. It doesn’t matter to her? Wanting to help women who have no other option to address the abuse they are experiencing might be understandable, but she prepares poisons without knowing whether the woman is “a victim or a transgressor”?

Caroline is even more unbelievable. She finds a vial, explores an undiscovered building in the heart of London, and then links her discoveries to documents in the British Museum? Everything she needs to find, she finds easily; everything just falls into place very quickly. She has a degree in History but her poor knowledge of proper research skills left me wondering how she ever earned that degree. This same person thinks that an application to a university guarantees acceptance, even for someone who has done no academic work for ten years?

The author is at pains to emphasize Caroline’s personal growth during her few days in London. On her first day, she finds a vial and she immediately concludes that “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.” Only hours later, “I could feel the change in myself at this very moment: the discontent within me seizing the possibility of an adventure, an excursion into my long-lost enthusiasm for eras past.” After one day in the city, “The youthful, adventurous Caroline had begun to come alive again. I thought of my unused history degree, my diploma shoved away in a desk drawer. As a student, I’d been fascinated by the lives of ordinary people, those whose names weren’t acknowledged and recorded in textbooks. And now, I’d stumbled on the mystery of one of those nameless, forgotten people – and a woman, no less.” A woman who has apparently done no self-reflection for a decade, not even knowing that she is happy but unfulfilled, so quickly experiences epiphanies and can even narrate her own growth?

There are other implausibilities. An amateur stumbles on a centuries-long mystery? Caroline finds that particular vial used by Eliza? Caroline and Gaynor develop such a deep friendship after a couple of encounters, so that Gaynor signs a text message with “Gaynor xx” and even covers for Caroline despite suspecting that she has been less than completely truthful with her? In 1791, Nella writes about “Ms. Allie Bechem” and about “Miss Berkwell”; I know that Ms. originated in the 17th century, but why would the apothecary use two different honorifics? The magical deus ex machina is also annoying, especially considering that Caroline dismisses magic; the author seemed overly concerned to have a feel-good ending.

This book is an easy read, a quick bit of entertainment. Unfortunately, its shallowness and its contrived, implausible plot overshadowed my enjoyment.

Note: Please check out my reader's blog (https://schatjesshelves.blogspot.com/) and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski). ( )
1 vote Schatje | Jul 12, 2021 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 52 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
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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...
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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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