The Lost Apothecary – Sarah Penner

Publisher: Legend Press
Format: MOBI
Release Date: March 2nd, 2021

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Told in dual timelines, The Lost Apothecary explores the lives of three different women, their lives connected over the centuries by a single unlucky vial. In 1791, Nella serves the women in her community, issuing medicines where needed, but more often selling poisons, for desperate women to use against the men who cause them misery. The arrival of a new customer – twelve year old Eliza – sets in motion a chain of events that threatens everything Nella has built. In the present-day, after discovering her husband has been unfaithful, Caroline travels alone to London, taking advantage of their tenth anniversary trip, even if he isn’t there with her.

For me, the start felt just a little rocky. I found myself much more interested in Nella, Eliza and the poisons than I was in Caroline. I don’t know if it was the setting, or things felt like they were happening at a slightly faster pace in the past storyline, but it took me a few chapters to become invested in Caroline.

Things do pick up in Caroline’s story, especially when a particular complication is added. A bit more into the book I did find myself getting invested in the present day storyline, and enjoyed the way this weaved in with Nella and Eliza.

I liked the determination of all the characters, Caroline in trying to re-establish what she wants in life, Nella in protecting the women who have come to her for help, and Eliza in making things right. The relationship between Nella and Eliza was a joy to read, too, as all three re-examine their places in the world and decide on their paths.

Penner does a great job comparing and contrasting the different worlds these women move in, and shows how even though Caroline has more freedom than Nella and Eliza, she is still held back simply by being a woman, and in many respects expected to change her desires, hopes and dreams to placate the man in her life.

The compare and contrast also applies to the three women, and I liked how the three POV characters are each shown at very different areas of their lives. Eliza is just reaching the point of ‘womanhood’, with a lack of understanding about her own body and the world around her. Nella is trying very hard to make amends for the wrongs committed against her, and help other women while doing so. She starts the novel very much set in her ways, unable to contemplate the idea of doing something else or even taking on an apprentice. There’s a sense throughout of losing control over your own body, influenced by external and internal factors, and this is also reflected in Caroline, as she adjusts to the jetlag, and struggles to picture her, her husband and a child, even though they have been trying to start a family.

This is a book I thoroughly enjoyed, slipping into this world, with great descriptions that really ground the reader, especially in the scenes of the past. The three women are great characters, and there are some truly tense moments to keep you thoroughly engaged.

Thank you to Legend Press for providing this book via NetGalley. All views remain my own.

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