Imagine a story line with parallel occurrences spanning over centuries of time. What could possibly link three different women over two hundred years?
The Lost Apothecary was written by Sarah Penner and published on March 2, 2021. This novel quickly became a New York Times Best Seller. Sarah Penner is a historical fiction author and a member of the Historical Novel Society and Women's Fiction Writers Association. In the late 18th century, women were virtually powerless in a society meant to oppress them. It is possible that some content may have been inspired by 17th century Guilla Tofana, history's most prolific and deadly female poisoner who helped rid women of their abusive husbands; over 600 of them to be exact!
The Lost Apothecary begins back in early 1791 in London, with an apothecary, older than her years and the master of disguise, awaiting the next client with a dark and wicked secret. She has hand-selected the ideal remedy for the proposed series of events which would befall the husband of Eliza's mistress the following morning. The apothecary, Nella, has two simple rules. Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman. Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary's register. The apothecary inherited the shop from her mother, who had an affinity for helping women and their maladies with benign herbal remedies. However, Nella's shelves are not only lined with nettle, hyssop and amaranth, but also with nightshade, hellebore and arsenic. And hidden under the ink strokes in the register are betrayal, anguish, dark secrets and vengeance. What could have possibly happened to shift the sands of time from good, wholesome and helpful, to dark, clever and wicked?
The pages turn into the present day and introduce a new character, Caroline, who is also undergoing a betrayal; the fresh knowledge of her husband's infidelity. Caroline embarks on a journey of self-discovery to unveil the truth about numerous realities in her life. While she had set aside her love of history and dreams of a Cambridge education in order to focus on her marriage and support her husband, she now finds herself alone in London...'mudlarking'.
The chapters continue to alternate between 1791 and present-day London, describing events which occurred in the same location yet centuries apart. The plot is rich with historical content, and while 'mudlarking', Caroline discovered the definitive item that linked the lives of Eliza, Nella and Caroline. Caroline's instruction from her guide was to search for an inconsistency of things; or an absence. "You must trust your instinct more than your eyes." Her discovery of the previously hidden artifact led her to the British Library, 3 Back Alley, the Thames River and at one point, her actions led her to being questioned by the authorities due to the extent of her corroborating discoveries!
Through the innocence yet carelessness of twelve-year-old Eliza, the breakdown of the facade began, eventually linking all three women. It was up to Caroline to uncover the secrets of the past and piece together the events of the deep, dark mystery unsolved in the annals of London history. What were these secrets? How did they unfold? How did Eliza play such a key role in the events that led to the association of three women and two centuries of time?
All the answers lie in The Lost Apothecary.
The Review, The Recommendation, and The Rating will follow.
ANCIENT APOTHECARY'S OATH
"I swear and promise before God, author and Creator of all things, never to teach ungrateful persons or fools the secrets and mysteries of the trade. Never to divulge the secrets confided to me. Never to administer poisons. To disavow and shun as a pestilence, the scandalous and pernicious practices of quacks, empirics and alchemists and to keep no stale bad drug in my shop. May God continue to bless me so long as I continue to obey these things."