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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen

The Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen 5 of 5 stars.

Lilly Haswell remembers everything--

whether she wants to, or not. . .

AS LILLY TOILS IN HER FATHER'S APOTHECARY SHOP, preparing herbs and remedies by rote, she is haunted by memories of her mother's disappearance. Villagers whisper the tale, but her father refused 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? (Book blurb)

Lilly is a strong and capable young woman with a grieving heart and a desire for adventure. Having seen her mother leaving the village with a man by boat several years past, Lily jumps at the the opportunity to go to London the moment it is placed before her. Leaving her father and simple-minded brother to take care of the herb shop in the process.

While London was a satisfactory change of pace, Lilian Haswell not only fails to secure a husband after two seasons, she brings scandal after scandal down upon herself, her aunt, and her uncle. But when Lilly finally has leads to her mother's whereabouts and a suitor--a timid young physician--a letter arrives asking her to hurry home that her father is not well. And with that, she picks up and leaves.

The Apothecary's Daughter is an informative and masterfully written historical fiction novel that has the feel of a BBC drama. Its beautifully pieced together scenes, characters, and historical tidbits make it a fascinating read; even more so for someone interested in herbalism. The honest and humble themes of faith running throughout this novel give it that extra touch of sincerity, engraving it forever on my heart.

I truly enjoyed reading about all of the everyday tasks of a 19th century apothecary shop. A well written historical novel has to be able to capture the mundane without making it feel boring, as well as bringing suspense and drama to the specific point in history. Julie Klassen does a wonderful job at this. I soaked up all of the history surrounding the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries and all the changes that happened with the medical hierarchy during that period in time.

As for the characters, all of your favorite sort were there and then some. From the rakish bad boy Roderick Marlow, to the brooding Dr. Graves, and, my favorite,  the sincere and loving Francis, the heroes were wonderful and varied. Mr. Shuttleworth was a fun addition, his eccentricity adding something unique to the cast of characters. The heroines were full of spirit and strength. I loved Mary's wit and resilience. Despite her hardships she showed a great deal of grace and courage. Lilly was a remarkable and lovable character whom I will not soon forget. Her uncomplaining and capable care of her father's patients during his sickness were touching.

The plot is full of twists and turns and surprises that kept me on my toes and flipping the pages. That said, it has a relaxed and flowing feel. Though calamity after calamity might befall the Haswell family, there are many poignant and careful interactions that weave themselves between the "exciting" parts and make it feel completely natural. The resolutions to problems and the reactions to disaster show depth in the characters.

An absolutely beautiful novel in all. If you have any interest in herbalism, or if you're just a fan of historical fiction you should give this book a try. I promise that you will love it!

*To order a copy of The Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen from Amazon.com, please click here.

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