Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!
Last week, I shared some shows that I’ve been listening to via the BBC Sounds website. Tina enjoyed the mystery The Downstairs Neighbor by Helen Cooper but recommends reading it quickly to keep the many characters straight.
Book: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Park Row
Publication date: 2021
Source: eBook borrowed from library
Summary: In 1791, a London apothecary who is not as elderly as she appears to the world is visited by a girl who is more courageous and wiser than her young age would indicate. This should have been a brief encounter, never repeated, but events and mutual appreciation keep drawing these two characters together.
In modern times, Caroline arrives in London on what was supposed to be a 10th anniversary trip with her husband. Instead, she traveled alone to give herself time to process his betrayal and determine what that means for the future of the marriage and for dreams that she allowed to die a long time ago.
Thoughts: I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read about an apothecary that specialized in poisons to kill abusive men. My desire to smash the patriarchy is sometimes accompanied by near-murderous rage, but I don’t tend to encourage that part of myself.
It turns out toxins are not a tool of wrath. Poisoning is an act of desperation, a consequence of keeping women so trapped that widowhood looks better than marriage.
But it took me a while to come around to the historical storyline.
I was immediately drawn in by the modern story about Caroline, an American in London, distracting herself from the recent implosion of her marriage. During a guided adventure of mudlarking on the Thames, Caroline discovers an ancient blue vial with a crude etching of a bear. With the bottle, Caroline also rediscovers her love of history, a passion that she buried in a decade of practicalities.
For me, Caroline’s story was a fantasy come to life. A trip to London. A historical discovery that leads to adventures in ancient alleyways and at the British Library. A developing female friendship between the American woman and a historian at the British Library. I would take that journey, any day, and it’s cheaper and easier to do it in fiction.
Appeal: You’ll love this book if you like stories about creative women who build paths for themselves when the ones that society paved aren’t working for them — both in the distant past and today.
Have you read this book? What did you think?