The Lost Apothecary – by Sarah Penner – independent book review – Historical Fiction (Britain)

Sarah Penner’s debut novel is a very fun read! Part historical fiction, part suspenseful mystery. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.

Like many novels published these days, there are two stories in different time periods. But unlike many writers who use this technique, Penner doesn’t wait for the end to tie the two stories together. Instead, they unfold in a clever and complementary fashion through three narrators:

  1. Caroline: Living in Ohio where she works a safe but boring bookkeeping job, Caroline is in London on what was supposed to be an extravagant 10th anniversary celebration with her husband. Until circumstances forced her to take the trip alone.
  2. Nella: A single woman with a tragic past now maintains a small, hidden apothecary her mother began. Only Nella uses what she knows to help desperate women escape from untenable situations.
  3. Eliza: Just 12 years old, Eliza is already working as a servant in the home of a wealthy patron, where she is facing difficult situations of her own.

In 1791, Eliza is asked to deliver a secret message from her mistress to Nella’s shop. Immediately, the Eliza and Nella form an unexpected connection. One that eventually threatens both their lives.

In the present day, Caroline, suffering from jet lag, wanders London and serendipitously joins a walk along the Thames River where tourists sample mudlarking (looking for treasures in mud). With a lifelong passion for history, Caroline’s discovery leads her on a research adventure that changes her life.

Author Sarah Penner

These three strong women (or two women and a girl) run into bigger themes as well. Including the privilege inherent in the British class system, the dynamics of marriage, the nature of revenge, and how each individual needs to find their own fulfillment and happiness.

The writing is direct and concise and there’s plenty of action! Don’t miss this quick and enjoyable bestseller!

More about the author, Sarah Penner.

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