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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:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • 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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Rebecca L. (Torrington, CT)

Interesting with great plot twists
The cover on this book looked so intriguing, as did the book description, so I was excited to get the chance to read this. This book was an interesting combination of historical fiction and a contemporary viewpoint. The plot was great - the plot twists at the end I just didn't see coming and I really liked the overall plot line. Caroline's character was intriguing and curious, and her growth throughout the story was wonderful to see. And I LOVED that she didn't stay with her husband, who was a manipulative asshole. Overall this was a sweet story and I really enjoyed it, I would recommend it! 
Bev C. (Latrobe, PA)

The Lost Apothecary
I was drawn to this book by what promised to be a unique read.

I did find dark, creative fiction that gave me a historical perspective of the time before poison could be detected at autopsy.

The dual timeline (1791 and present day London) wove the story of a secret apothecary that dispensed poison to women to liberate them from men who exploited them and a present day young woman seeking to understand a jumble of feelings stifling her life.

Betrayal is a backdrop and the plot is cleverly woven to yield surprises.
A small jar recovered while mudlarking in the Thames leads to slowly revealing an underground web of revenge over two centuries ago.

Provocative characters make this an interesting read.
Barb W. (Mechanicsburg, PA)

The Lost Apothecary
Once I started reading this book, I found it hard to put down. I liked reading the stories of Nella, Eliza, and Caroline, and didn't even mind the way the story switched back and forth from Victorian England to the present day. In some books, that annoys me, but this book made it work. I cared about all three of the women, and couldn't wait to find out how things worked out for each of them. I will certainly recommend this book to friends and family.
Power Reviewer
Peggy K. (San Marcos, CA)

Poisonous Love
Here we meet Nella and Eliza in 18th century London. Nella was raised to be a healer but now supplies women with poisons to end unhappy relationships. Eliza wishes to learn to be an apothecary with Nella.

Enter Caroline who is in modern day London trying to decide what to do about infidelity in her marriage.

The book is about the dangers os such a life in old England and the discovery of a new future in the modern world. Nella is slowly dying and Eliza is young and fascinated with Nella's work. One mistake changes everything just as it does for Caroline and her husband.

Nicely written and enjoyable as a mystery romance. So much to learn about poisons along the way. Reading age 16 and up. Book clubs will truly enjoy discussing the the reasons for Nella's decision to help women use these poisons.
Barbara R.

The Lost Apothecary
I must admit that I did stay up all night to finish The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner. The twists and turns in the final chapters required it.

The Lost Apothecary follows three characters in two timelines. Nella, the apothecary and provider of poisons, and Eliza, the twelve-year-old customer and Nella’s accidental assistant, live in 1791 London. American amateur historian Caroline escapes heartbreak in a trip to present-day London. Their lives intersect through a small, pale blue vial. Eliza becomes more involved in Nella’s life, and Caroline is intrigued by the mystery of a possible serial killer. Each in turn tells their story through clearly labeled alternating chapters.

I loved the character of Eliza and could relate to Caroline’s academic search for the origins of the vial, but the apothecary herself didn’t resonate with me. When Caroline’s historical search became more exciting, I temporarily flipped past Nella’s chapters to follow the flow of discovery. I have also experienced that OMG! moment of discovery while researching the origin of an inherited family painting. I love that I could find Bear Alley on Google Maps and follow it on street view, but not quite to its end! Can I see a steel gate?
Ruth C. (Charlotte, NC)

well done, yet hard to read...
While this is not the page-turner, for me, promised in the promotional blurb, I find myself wondering why it was so hard to finish. The Lost Apothecary is a skillfully written novel that switches between three primary characters living in the late 1700s and today. Sarah Penner quite vividly paints the agony of betrayal that Nella, the apothecary, experienced in 1791. And she portrays Caroline's reaction, in 2020, to her husband's infidelity in sensitive detail. The author also creates an excuse that fuels Caroline's determination to uncover the story behind The Lost Apothecary, conveniently connecting the time periods and characters.

This complex story invites and stimulates both discussion and thoughtful contemplation. Overall, the tale is a dark one dealing with murder, deception, and varying degrees of loss, some explicitly described. Slow in the beginning, the narrative pace gradually picks up. I cannot say I enjoyed reading this book, and I now realize that is why it was so difficult to read. I would not recommend this book without a caution concerning its content.
Terri O. (Chapel Hill, NC)

The Lost Apothecary
I enjoyed the historical plot line of this book very much and would give that part of the book five stars. I found Nella and Eliza to be fascinating, well written characters, and their story line was compelling. The author did a great job invoking late 18th-century London and the apothecary trade. But the modern-day plot line just didn't work for me. I didn't warm to Caroline, and much of the modern-day plot hinged on unbelievable coincidences and implausible strokes of luck. Overall, the book was a pleasant read but I would have much preferred to spend the entire book with Nella and Eliza.
Carol C. (Troy, NY)

The Lost Apothecary
This book focuses on 3 women - 2 in the 18th Century, and 1 in the 21st - seeking more from their lives. Through tragedy or circumstance, they look to help others (Eliza and Nella) or, just as importantly, themselves (notably, Caroline). Ultimately, all three women seek the opportunity to change or improve their lives. The book better evokes the London of the 1790's than that of 2020, but perhaps there is an assumption that the reader has some familiarity with the latter. The premise of Nella's work is a bit disquieting, but provides an interesting story line. Despite a slow start, I enjoyed 'The Lost Apothecary.'

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