Book: The Lost Apothecary
Author: Sarah Penner
My Rating: 3 Stars
Hey bookworms! I’m excited because (at the moment) I’m actually reading the books I say I’m going to read. Historically that is not my forte. Thanks hugely in part to audiobooks and my library card, I’ve been able to read the books at the top of my TBR list! This week I read The Lost Apothecary on audiobook AND hardcover.
I was excited about this story because it reminded me of some pretty interesting historical true crime. There are many instances of apothecaries selling poisons in secret and no way of knowing just how many victims there are in history. In this story, Nella is an apothecary who helps women. She sells helpful tinctures and remedies, but also more sinister products to help take care of other maladies that women faced, such as abusive, predatory, oppressive men. In present day, Caroline is visiting London while enduring her own personal crisis. During her visit she begins to uncover the secret of Nella’s Apothecary, and the investigation of a possible centuries old serial killer somehow seems to be a refuge from her troubled marriage.
This story was very interesting, but also very off putting simultaneously. It’s an in depth look at women’s struggles. Like, everyone of Nella’s clients have a horrible story. And there are several clients. So, the story is made up of several smaller depressing stories. And the storyline in present day with Caroline isn’t much better. On her tenth wedding anniversary her marriage might be falling apart after trying to conceive a child, just as Caroline discovers she might be pregnant. All of the stories are women faced with hard and unfair circumstances with difficult choices to make. So, while I was sucked into the intriguing story, it wasn’t necessarily fun to read. And when I finished, I was desperately in need of something happy and lighthearted.
I loved the parallel storytelling of Nella’s timeline and Caroline’s. Nella’s character was complex. She would only sell her poisons to help women, never to harm them. And the origin story that led to her becoming the infamous poisoner was heartbreaking. She wasn’t a black and white killer. She thought dealing death would heal her own wounds, but instead found that running her business for years had only taken its toll on her mentally and physically. And Caroline’s story was heartbreaking as well. After ten years of marriage she found herself with an unfaithful husband – and upon closer inspection of her relationship – a decade of decisions she regretted.
It was a very heavy story, but I appreciated how it really highlighted the strength of women. On the surface, it would be easy to say it was just about depressing struggles and horrible men. But by the end I was more focused on its message of the ways women face challenges, band together, and heal. I would hesitantly recommend this to others though. While there aren’t graphic descriptions of anything, there are obvious references to cheating, abuse, rape, and abortion/miscarriages. It’s just not something I think everyone would enjoy. I don’t regret reading it by any means, but if you’re looking for something lighthearted and fun, this is NOT the book you’re looking for. However, it is well written, the story is gripping, and the characters are some of the most complex I’ve read. I can’t think of another story that made me feel the way this one did. And I always enjoy when a book causes me to think outside of my own bubble!
Krystle Goodman is a crazy cat lady, who loves to drink exorbitant amounts of coffee, and read a shocking amount of books. She lives in Benton with her husband Josh, her son Roman, and their two cats Roxanne and Abby. When she isn’t reading, you’ll find her cooking, painting, or watching true crime shows. Watch for Krystle’s book reviews every other Friday. Send fanmail to: [email protected]
See more of Krystle’s reviews at www.mysaline.com/krystle.
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