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The Lost Apothecary

A Novel

by Sarah Penner

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner X
The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    Mar 2021, 320 pages

    Feb 2022, 352 pages


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There are currently 28 reader reviews for The Lost Apothecary
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Wanda T. (Wilmington, DE)

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
In The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner you will meet three determined women: Nella, Eliza and Caroline and flip between 1791 Victorian London and present day London. Nella is the apothecary in Victorian London who does more than concoct remedies for ladies maladies. Eliza is a young girl who befriends Nella through strange circumstances. Caroline, in present day, comes to London alone after being betrayed by her husband of ten years. Caroline finds a small blue vial while mudlarking (you must read the book to find out about this unusual hobby) and the journey of research, soul searching, murder and revenge begins. As I knew nothing about apothecaries of the late 18th century, I spent some time researching and learned some fascinating information. This is a book that will pique your interest and make you wonder. I thoroughly enjoyed it!!
Mary D. (Claremont, CA)

The Lost Apothecary
This is a fast-paced historical novel with several unusual twists. The accidental discovery of a small blue vial leads a 21st century woman to delve into the history of a late 18th century apothecary and a possible serial killer. Each chapter goes back and forth between the current day and 1791. Oftentimes, I find it difficult to follow the 'time jumps' but the author (Sarah Penney) clearly distinguishes Between the two time periods, not only by keeping each chapter in a time period but also by designating who is telling the story of each chapter, the apothecary, her accidental assistant, or our modern day scholar. The characters are quite well drawn, as are the physical descriptions. One can easily envisage the secret room of the apothecary, the fog of the river, the library. This book is very well-paced, claiming one's interest from the very first page and keeping the interest going, making it very difficult to put down. If I didn't have other necessary responsibilities, I would have undoubtedly read this book in one sitting; as it was, I stayed up much too late finishing it. I recommend this book for its enjoyment and particularly for its glimpse into the world of women and women apothecaries in the late 18th century.
Catherine S. (Marietta, GA)

Riveting Read
The first page piqued my interest and the rest of the book continued to hold my attention. The chapters set in 18th century London seem well researched with their descriptions of the people, houses and social gatherings of the times. I found the information on poisons fascinating. I found Nella and Eliza to be much more compelling characters than Caroline. They exhibited intelligence, ingenuity and courage in dealing with the troubles that came their way. Nella, coping with the loss of her child and faithless lover, chose to stand up for other wronged women by using her knowledge of natural poisons to eliminate the offending men. Eliza, a 12 year old maid, chose to stay with Nella and be her helper when disaster was hours away. Caroline was a little too much the stereotypical wronged woman who, within 4 days, solves a 200 year old mystery, stands up to her husband for the first time and then gets accepted at Cambridge. That was all a little too unbelievable to me. There are several twists and turns in the plot that I did not see coming. These, along with the ending helped make The Lost Apothecary a page-turner.
Deborah C. (Highland Park, NJ)

In looking for a lost apothecary, a character finds herself
From its first pages, "The Lost Apothecary" engages and intrigues the reader. The clear, strong dialog and descriptions move easily between centuries with the distinct voices of three characters: the 18th century's apothecary, bitter Nella; Eliza, the young maid who learns from and helps her; and modern-day Caroline, who uncovers their efforts with poisons to rid women of men who have harmed them in body or soul. In tracing their long-lost secrets, Caroline finds her way through her own troubled relationship, and into the future she has wished for and delayed. Also woven into the story are descriptions of the apothecary's art, as well as the "magick" of high-tech research tools, and some ethical themes to ponder, including when and if secrets should be kept.
Shirley B. (Edmonds, WA)

The Lost Apothecary
I found The Lost Apothecary to be a real page turner. The two-story lines kept me wanting to jump ahead to find out what was about to happen. The women who sought help from Nella to solve their problems matched Caroline's problem with her husband. Interesting. They just wanted to get out of a bad situation. The characters were well developed, and I liked having older and younger characters central to the plot. Caroline represents many women who are underappreciated and unfulfilled. Loved It!
Maribeth R. (Indianapolis, IN)

The Lost Apothecary
If you are looking for a great way to spend a Covid day, grab a glass of wine, your lounge chair, and Sarah Penner's book, The Lost Apothecary. This novel will carry you on a journey across centuries, and unlike many stories with a similar timeline, it does so seamlessly.

The characters are interesting and you won't be able to rest until you learn their fates. Nella, the apothecary; Eliza, her twelve (going on thirty) accidental assistant; and Caroline, an Ohioan on a terribly disrupted wedding anniversary trip to England, cross paths when Caroline discovers an artifact from the apothecary shop which has washed up on the banks of the Thames. Caroline's curiosity leads her on an historical adventure to solve the mysteries which emanated from the apothecary shop, and perhaps some secrets from her own life, as well.

Thanks for this wonderful volume. Looking forward to more books from Sarah Penner.
Gayle C. (Harris, MN)

The Lost Apothecary
What a compelling proposition this book offers -- the chance for women to take serious action when oppressed! I loved the premise and loved the unexpected twist at the end! This book smartly twines a current protagonist with past lives of women and girls -- one of my favorite story lines. And there's plenty of material for thought and for book group discussions -- what are the implications of taking these actions? Is it OK? Would I? Would I tell?
Kim B. (Bay City, MI)

Pleasantly surprised
I chose this book because I am a pharmacist. Well, the book turned out not to be related to pharmacy per se. However, there was some insight into the past of the profession.

I don't normally enjoy the format that this book was written in, jumping back and forth from past to present. This author's writing style is easy and streamlined, and the changes in time periods were painless. Character development was succinct, no extraneous tedium.

This story is a perfect read for getting cozy and having glass of wine.

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