Heidi Gardner's Reviews > The Apothecary

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy
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Apr 14, 12

Read from April 09 to 13, 2012

I read the adventure novel, The Apothecary by Maile Meloy.
This story is told from the perspective of 14 year old Janie Scott who
the daughter of Hollywood television writers and lives in Los Angeles is the 1950's. Early in the Cold War, her parents are under suspicion and at risk of being called to testify against
friends on J. Edgar Hoover's blacklist. The quickly move to London.
Life there is in sharp contrast to sunny California and worldwide threats of nuclear annhilation still call for bomb drills and rations. The meet the neighborhood apothecary right away and Janie befriends his son, Benjamin, in school. Benjamin aspires to be a spy and their youthful forays into spying lead them into an international adventure where Benjamin's father disappears and they must learn to use his book of ancient recipes, The Pharmacopaeia to find him and continue with his plan to use alchemy to protect everyone from the effects of a detonated bomb.
The two characteristics of good adventure literature that The Apothecary best displayed
were a likable relatable protagonist and an interesting setting that enhanced but didn't
interfere with the plot. So strong are these, that I almost think you can see their presence even in a short description of the book! But Janie is plucky and loyal. She loves imagining she is Katherine Hepburn, but is also self confident. Her romantic feelings show maturity, but her embarrassment reveals the vulnerability of adolescence.
The setting is fascinating. The McCarthy Era is underused in all forms of fiction, but it lends itself perfectly to a good spy story. And the addition of magical elements set against such a well described historical setting made it difficult not to read the book in a single sitting!
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04/09/2012 page 89
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