The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner - Book Review

The whole concept for Whisporia came from the idea of a hidden magical apothecary & emporium tucked down a cobbled road in England, so a book about an apothecary hidden in 18th Century London… really was a must read!

The book follows two main story lines, first Catherine in the current day, & then Nella and Eliza in the early early 18th Century.

Catherine’s story begins when she arrives in London for what was meant to be a holiday with her husband to celebrate their 10yr anniversary, but has instead become an escape following his bombshell affair. I would have loved to explore more of Catherine’s story, she seems to have given up so much for her marriage, her dreams and plans for further study and careers, completely halted upon engagement. But we do get to see her find a little of this back as she tries mudlarking and ultimately learns of the Lost Apothecary. We also meet her husband, and some friends she meets along the way.

Meanwhile Nella and Eliza’s story invites us into the hidden world of the apothecary, where Nella brews potions and tinctures to take the lives of troublesome men. From abusers to rapists, cheaters and liars. Her rules stop her from poisoning women, instead ensuring that not only are these women rid of these men in their lives, but also that their names are recorded in the apothecary. Such an important thing to Nella when these women would otherwise be lost to history.

An unlikely friendship forms between Nella & 12 yr old Eliza, when she is sent to visit Nella by her mistress. Eliza dreams of magic & mystery, Nella deals only in the practical, Eliza is young & dreams of bigger things, Nella is older than her years & worn down by a sad & traumatic past. But together their unlikely bond not only tells the story of the apothecary & some of the women who visit it, but also of London at the time & how women were viewed.

An enjoyable read, which whilst wasn’t what I expected, was delightful all the same. I would like to see the storylines expanded, but the story does wrap up well so it doesn’t feel like a sequel would ever be needed. Good for a quick & casual read, for those who enjoy a little escapism without heading into fantasy reads.

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