The Lost Apothecary

by: Sarah Penner

The Lost Apothecary is a short read. We follow our main character to London which was supposed to be her anniversary destination with her husband of ten years. She arrives alone and we learn it’s due to her recently finding out he’s been having an affair. She needs space and takes the trip. 

Our main character has a love of history and gave up any future plans of going to cambridge to get a job at her family’s farm while her husband worked at a well to do company. 

They’ve also been trying for a baby. 

We’ll hear about this a lot. 

As for the apothecary? She’s an elderly woman who runs a hidden poison shop to protect women. She took over the shop from her mother when it used to be the average, up and up, shop that provided help for women’s ailments. It had always been a women focused shop. 

How small the lives of women are treated is a predominant line throughout the book. 

The premise drew me in but I was let down by flat characters and flat writing. I closed the book with a shrug. It’s also meant to take place in modern London. 

The cast of characters in the modern setting is small. Four that we’re introduced to in total, three that we deal with with any regularity. 

London’s got a population made up of 44% Black and Ethnic minorities and there’s not a single POC in the book. 

It would have grounded the book and made it more believable and since this book would have been written in the last two or three years, I’m sure the author would have known that yes, London is diverse. To ignore that is infuriating and insulting. 

If you’re going to give me flat characters and flat writing, but want me to root for a woman who wants to unburden herself to the first person who’s nice to her, you can make the backdrop more realistic. 

Now for the spoiler section.

Her husband shows up unannounced and throughout the story we’ve learned that he brought up wanting to wait for a baby because of working long hours. Babies need a lot of time and attention and that’s the absolute truth.

However, we see that he’s got a controlling streak to him. And when his past moments of control were brought up, well he has a way of turning it on his wife. She wanted to apply to Camebridge. He brought up waiting. She got upset and ripped up her application. 

When she tells him how that made her feel, his dismissal of her dream, he doesn’t seem to care and says “I didn’t make you tear up your application.” There’s always something he has to say about whatever she brings up. 

However there’s a big issue I  have with him. 

There’s a point where he says he’s not feeling well. She offers a eucalyptus oil rub that she kleeps in her bag. 

In an effort to control her and make her see that she’ll regret leaving him, this man drinks half of it willingingly. It could have killed him and when she finally discovers he did it on purpose and gets the “You needed to see you’d regret us being apart” she is rightly horrified. Especially since it got her into hot water with the police. 

After that? It’s totally swept under the rug. 

That’s not just manipulation. That’s abuse. And it’s just handled with a “meh, we both need to work on ourselves.” 

They were both unfulfilled in their marriage, him complaining about how boring and predictable it had become. He even tells her that he had the affair situation fixed by having the woman moved and if she were to contact him again he’d go to HR. He brushes off responsibility. 

And then, y’know, ingested a toxic substance on purpose, to control his wife. 

None of that is handled with any of the appropriate temperament. 

It was the biggest letdown of the book 


Author. Reader. Reviewer. Interested in Sci-fi, Fantasy, and everything in between. Ya, and Adult. Looking for representaion where it matters! BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled, everything! We all deserve stories!

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