Truth be told, I listened to this audiobook on a whim as it came up in the new book recommendations of my library app. Sounded interesting enough! And overall, it was an easy and engaging enough listen, though I can’t say that it grabbed me much beyond a passing enjoyment.
The Lost Apothecary flits between two time periods (and 3 protagonists’ points of view therein). The first setting is 1791 London, where a woman named Nella works in a hidden apothecary for women, helping them with various ailments including those that require the elimination of the men in their lives. One night, a young girl named Eliza walks into the shop on behalf of her employer who seeks to poison her husband. Eliza is a curious young woman whose presence soon becomes entrenched in Nella’s world far more than she wishes, and which alters the course of both their lives within a short period of time.
Alongside this setting is present-day London, where a woman named Catherine is supposed to be on a 10-year anniversary vacation with her husband. Yet, after discovering her husband’s infidelity, she chooses to take the trip alone. After finding an old vial while mudlarking in the River Thames, Caroline rediscovers her love of history and research that she had long left behind with marriage.
As you might imagine, as the past tale with Nella and Eliza begins to unfold, it soon becomes clear that this past will soon become linked to Caroline’s findings. And along with it, Caroline begins to ask questions about her own life and passions, and how she may choose to move forward with the new knowledge and history she uncovers.
While listening to this novel, I definitely found both settings interesting, but I do think that the story in the past could have worked on it’s own. It’s not like the present-day took away from anything, and there were certainly places of overlap in the themes about the places and decisions of a woman in her life. I just can’t help but think that maybe there should have been more direct or woven parallels of issues between the women. It would have made the intertwining of the tales feel more purposeful to me, rather than simply being a conduit for Caroline to have an adventure. She certainly examines her own life in the process, but how much of that is really dependent on the story of Nella and Eliza? Could not this journey for Caroline have occurred with any other mystery and researching adventure?
As for the tone of this novel, I’m not quite sure how to place it. I wouldn’t say its a beach read per say, in that the themes were quite dark for solid portions. Yet the pacing and direction was certainly a plucky-protagonist-following-clues vibe, paired up with more personal issues. So in a way it felt like a beachy read (or listen, in my case) mostly in that it was nice to casually listen to while I was working on a painting, yet beyond that I can’t say that it will leave a lasting impression on me.
So The Lost Apothecary is kind of fun but also not very fun when it comes to the themes. You can see pretty quickly where things are going, though the end did send me for a little bit of a loop, I will admit. Yet this also felt a little like a twist just for a twist, you know? Ultimately, this book was a fine listen, and I didn’t hate it but didn’t love it either. It is simply a book that I have taken in. Which certainly makes writing a review a little bit difficult, no?