The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner was the first book I read in 2022. I had this originally on my Spooky TBR last year because of the fantasy elements and the alchemy involved in making poisons. The Lost Apothecary has a fascinating premise centered around this apothecary offering poisons to women wronged by men. I did enjoy this book, although there were a few instances that stuck out to me about the story. The story wraps up quite conveniently which I feel was a bit implausible.
A woman is scorned and seeks help from an apothecary. Poisons are easily dispensed and women stay silenced. Nella Clavinger, the woman running the apothecary, keeps track of everything she’s prescribed and preserves the women who wanted more. Eliza Fanning, a young girl who was sent to Nella by her employer seeking a poison for her rotten husband. In the twenty first century, Caroline Parcewell discovers her husband’s affair and finds a vial with a bear on it leading her to look for this hidden apothecary. The three women are connected at various parts of history by a secret and enchanting place.
Out of all the stories, I found myself gravitating towards Nella and Eliza. I enjoyed reading Nella’s back story as it relates to why Nella started adding poisons to her shop. Eliza’s story is relatable as she’s a young girl who leaves her rural town and is set to explore a brand new place. Caroline’s story was more realistic, yet the most implausible as she seems to put together the existence of the apothecary despite not being a trained historian. I’m sure Caroline is incredibly smart, I just found that she may not have been able to do it on her own. I would have loved a partnership between Caroline and Gaynor, a librarian that Caroline meets. I think this would have been great to see two women using their strengths to lead this investigation.
Another annoying part of the book to me was that no one wanted to tell Eliza about her period. There’s a scene where Eliza gets her period for the first time and leaves a chair with a blood stain. For whatever reason NO ONE thought to sit down with Eliza and explain her period until the latter half of the book. Eliza thought her period was from a spirit which understandably she’s 12. I thought that was so odd. I wouldn’t say this ruined the story by any means, but I found it rather questionable especially because this book is built on women supporting women.
Overall I’m glad I read The Lost Apothecary as I thought it was a solid book to start the year off with. I’d recommend this for anyone remotely interested in history, London, and fantasy. I rated The Lost Apothecary four stars on Goodreads.