The best apothecary was one who knows intimately the despair felt by her patient, whether in body or heart.Sarah Penner, The Lost Apothecary
Usually, within the first few chapters of a book, I can tell whether or not I’m going to love it, or if I’m going to leave it on my bookshelf to collect dust.
I didn’t just love this book – I LOVED THIS BOOK. I all-caps loved this book. I will never allow this book to collect dust. EVER. I will be lending it out to everyone I know, and then I’ll read it again.
Side note: this book also has fun drink recipes at the end, one of which I tried, and it was delicious (no poison needed).
Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London lies a secret apothecary that caters to women who have been afflicted by the greatest ailment of all time…BETRAYAL. We’re talking about men betraying their women here. Real dark stuff.
Of course, Nella, the proprietor of this hidden/secret apothecary, knows all about this kind of betrayal. She knows the only way to bring these women justice is to sell them discrete poisons that are meant to end the lives of these horrible and oppressive men (ugh, men, am I right?).
When Nella meets Eliza, a 12-year-old housemaid of one of her customers, she doesn’t expect the child to take such a liking to her. She also doesn’t expect to feel a similar connection. Nella takes the young kiddo under her wing, but chaos soon ensues when Eliza makes a fatal mistake – a mistake that endangers Eliza, Nella, and the apothecary that’s responsible for bringing justice to women all throughout London.
Fast forward to present-day London, where Caroline Parcewell finds herself celebrating her 10-year wedding anniversary alone and feeling betrayed by the man she’s spent most of her life with. When Caroline, also an aspiring historian, comes across an apothecary bottle related to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London during the 18th century, her life intertwines with Nella and Eliza in ways you’ll never expect.
Told from the perspective of these three empowering women, all different ages and coming from different walks of life – all of them united through The Lost Apothecary. You will NOT, I repeat, will NOT, want to put this book down until after you have read the very last page.
Eliza had to be my all-time favorite character. I mean, they’re all great, but Eliza takes the cake.
First, she is as loyal as a golden retriever (aka very loyal). She meets Nella when her mistress sends Eliza to the lost apothecary to pick up poison meant for the man who betrayed Eliza and her mistress, the master of the house. I think Eliza feels some sort of bond with Nella from the very beginning, and Nella tries very hard to keep Eliza away from her and the apothecary business. Obviously, all attempts are useless.
After the deed/murder is done, Eliza feels this horrible guilt. She feels that her master’s spirit is haunting her. It doesn’t help that Eliza actually gets her first period right when her master dies (from the poison she gave him). Of course, any 12-year-old would assume that what she was experiencing was the demon in her belly instead of mother nature taking care of business. Honestly, that’s probably the funniest part of the book. I know I often think of my period as a curse more than a blessing. Such a mood.
I don’t only love Eliza because she was uninformed on feminine biology – she is also (in my opinion) the saving grace of this book. Even though she is the reason for everything falling apart, she redeems herself in the most amazing way.
Nella is another great character. At first, resistant to the adorable charms of Eliza, but not even Nella could keep the kid at arm’s length (she tried really hard). I can also see why Eliza felt drawn to Nella. There’s something about Nella that is so intriguing. I mean, she sells poisons to betrayed women for a living – that would make me want to get to know the depths of her soul or just the circumstances that led her to that profession.
That is something you learn more about when you read the book – Nella’s Big Betrayal (Prequel idea?!).
It was Nella’s betrayal that turned her mother’s regular ole apothecary into an apothecary that caters to the broken-hearted. A place for women to go to exact their revenge. She helps only women and she never kills women. She only helps women kill the men that betrayed them.
I like Nella because her life’s purpose is this mission and she’s determined to follow it through. You can tell as the book progresses that Nella also has some kind of illness, the same illness that took her mother from her. That doesn’t stop her from working #BAMF.
Caroline has also experienced her own betrayal. The day before she and her husband set off to go on their 10-year anniversary honeymoon trip, she discovers that he’s cheated. She sets off on their trip to London all by herself, trying to understand what she should do next.
While she doesn’t go to the lost apothecary to buy herself some revenge poison, she does end up finding herself again by uncovering the mysteries that lie behind Nella’s hidden apothecary.
I’d say more about Caroline, but I don’t want to give away any major spoilers. The whole fun of this book is watching Caroline uncover the big mystery while Nella and Eliza are living it out.
Just Read It
Three women – one story – all of them united through their own tragedies. I can’t tell you how empowering this book really is. All I can do is tell you to read it and see for yourself.
Sarah Penner, if you see this, please know: This is one of the BEST novels I have ever read and I cannot wait to see what else your brilliant mind comes up with next. I am not just saying this because we both spell Sarah with an “h” (although that is a big reason).
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