Book Review: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

June 21, 2021 – Sarah Vohsen, Adult Services

This column was first published in the June 2021 issue of The Best Years (TBY).

Caroline never imagined she’d be alone on her anniversary trip to England. But after she learns about her husband’s illicit affair, she is happy to use this trip as an excuse to get away. While she runs around England, she takes the chance to drop the safe itinerary and goes mudlarking in the River Thames. While digging for remnants of history in the mud, Caroline discovers a small glass vial and stumbles onto an unsolved mystery that is centuries old.

She only has a few days to dig up the history behind this vial and the bear etched on it. With her new acquaintance Gaynor and some slightly illegal snooping, Caroline tries to put the pieces together before her trip ends. But when James makes an unexpected trip to see her, this mystery may cause her more trouble than it’s worth.

Yellow and pink flowers on a dark blue background surround a bottle outlined in gold. The text reads The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner.

Sarah Penner’s The Lost Apothecary shows Nella’s life as an apothecary between the sections where Caroline tries to piece the past together. In these sections, Nella receives a request from the twelve-year-old Eliza Fanning at her shop. But when Eliza’s task is done, she keeps trying to visit Nella and ends up wrapped up in the next client’s job. On this latest task Nella might not be able to save herself from the danger of the situation, not to mention helping Eliza.

Sarah Penner did a wonderful job adding detail to the story without bogging readers down with too much information. The novel was easy to read and kept my attention the entire time because of the fast-paced writing and relatable characters.

If you are interested in this book or others that have parallel narratives, I would suggest trying The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish or The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor. Both of these books also center on a present day story and transition to the past for short sections  as the story progresses. These books can all be found at the library in print and e-book formats.

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