Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Julie Klassen - The Apothecary's Daughter

Lilly Haswell remembers everything--whether she wants to, or not...
As Lilly toils in her father's apothecary, preparing herbs and remedies by rote, she is haunted by memories of her mother's disappearance. Villagers whisper the tale, but her father refuses to discuss it. All the while, she dreams of the world beyond--of travel and adventure and romance.
When a relative offers to host her in London, Lilly discovers the pleasures and pitfalls of fashionable society and suitors, as well as clues about her mother. But will Lilly find what she is searching for--the truth of the past and a love for the future?

Comment: I have liked the majority of books by this author I've tried. Therefore, no wonder I decided to give this one a go, especially after a week where reading wasn't as easy as I wanted, mostly because of lack of time. However, apparently, I'm more appreciative of this author's later work, for this one (her second published book) wasn't as amazing as I hoped.

In this book we meet Lillian "Lilly" Haswell, a young woman who helps her apothecary father in his work, not only as his assistant but often as the person responsible for much of the work, for she has a good memory and can remember many necessary things to the trade. She is also devoted to her brother Charlie, who is known for his simple mind, and she is still hurt by how her mother left them without a word and she still hopes she can come back. One day, the visit of her aunt and uncle changes her life, for she is given the chance to see and live in London for a while...but what about her life as the apothecary's daughter, a role her new found friends in London would see as lowering? And what about her father and brother back home, how will they cope?

As expected, this was once again a very detailed story, like the author's other work I've tried. Lilly is a well developed character for her time, and I found it great she was so independent in her thinking and in how she was so interested in a subject ladies certainly weren't invited into enjoying. Of course, her liking something uncommon is one of the subjects addressed here, and how she deals with the opinion of others when they learn her origins is one part of the book. 

I liked the themes dealt here, Lilly's uncommon preference, life for apothecaries back then and how they were seen by doctors and the public in general...nowadays no one would expect a pharmacist to do more than what is prescribed by a doctor, perhaps giving advice, but back then before medicine got to the level we now have, it wasn't as generalized people would go to a doctor for help often couldn't afford it either), so apothecaries were great professionals but everything changes... this is quite a developed theme in this novel and much of the content was interesting to learn. 

However, I should say the way the plot happens makes things feel very slow. Not just in how the situations are presented and developed but in how things from one point to another, it does feel it takes too long for something truly necessary to happen. In the end, though, everything goes quite fast so... not the most steady balance in pace, for me. Added to the fact most of the decisions made only have an impact at the end makes the rest feel redundant at times.

Another thing I'd change a bit is how the romantic interests are displayed...the heroine Lilly has several suitors in different stages of the novel and I assume some are there to show us how things could be were she to do that choice and then how it would be with another one and so on, but truly, for me the choice was a little obvious when only one of them had a POV here and there. I appreciate the different sides of Lilly we could see and how they could come to life were she to choose this or that man but a lot of the plot was dedicated to showcase these possibilities and when the actual plot moves happened, they weren't as intense because my attention as distracted. Perhaps a little more editing could have helped...

When the story is getting to the end, one or two tragic things happen and what a drama! I thought to myself, was this really necessary? Or, better, was this necessary now? I think the allure of a dramatic end was too much to pass but for me, the final effect wasn't as well achieved as it could.
All things considered, this had good moments, some parts made me curious to keep reading but it wasn't as wonderful as I could have hoped to have found.
Grade: 6/10

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