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The Lost Apothecary

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  47,620 ratings  ·  7,447 reviews
A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.
Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of
Hardcover, 301 pages
Published March 2nd 2021 by Park Row
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Bad Girl Bex Ha ha, just thought the same thing myself. All I can hear is Bailey Sarian whispering "Aqua Tofana" over and over again in my head, lol.…moreHa ha, just thought the same thing myself. All I can hear is Bailey Sarian whispering "Aqua Tofana" over and over again in my head, lol.(less)
Sarah Penner Jess, thank you for the question. Here are the trigger warnings:
-infidelity, divorce ideation
-bodily effects of poisoning, blood
-recall of a past mis…more
Jess, thank you for the question. Here are the trigger warnings:
-infidelity, divorce ideation
-bodily effects of poisoning, blood
-recall of a past miscarriage
-brief predatory behavior against an adolescent
-brief suicide ideation (less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.87  · 
Rating details
 ·  47,620 ratings  ·  7,447 reviews

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Mar 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
i always admit that im not a fan of history. but then i pick up a brilliant work of historical fiction and i daydream about life as a historian. and right now, im imagining the atmosphere of 1790s london.

this story immediate transports the reader into bustling streets, shadow covered back alleys, and dusty apothecary shelves. ive always found old, natural remedies of the past fascinating, so i enjoyed reading about that aspect of the book. it was also rewarding seeing how nelly uses her knowled
Nilufer Ozmekik
Jul 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
An avenger female who can concoct poisonous formulas to help you get rid of man trouble. This hell of an outstanding synopsis idea put this book on my radar!
To the attention of the abusers, cheaters, bullies and most disgusting human wastes who treat the women like doormats: you should beware because there is an intelligent, vicious angel of death who is also apothecary is coming after you!

Nella is a ghost, wowed to help the mentally and physically hurt women who needs her support, hiding behin
Miranda Reads
Apr 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing

100 days into 2021 and 100 books have been read. Check out my latest BookTube Video to see which ones are my fave!
Annnd here's another video about this gorgeous book!

Just finished my BookTube Unboxing & Review Video for a PR box sent from St Martin's Press along with Once Upon a Book Club's March boxes (YA & Adult)!

And whew! What a wild ride. LOVED LOVED LOVED the books this round! (Also, fun fact: Down World was my pick as a reading rep for OUABC!!)

My reading rep code: MIRANDAREADS10

Mar 17, 2021 rated it it was ok
How can a story about a secret apothecary that dispenses poison to women so that they can kill their nearest and dearest be so dull?

The Lost Apothecary starts off with much promise. In the 18th century, we meet Nella, an apothecarist who has been making poison for decades. Women come to her when they have nowhere else to turn, and she provides them with the method to kill their problems. When a young girl named Eliza enters her shop, it sets in motion a chain of events from which there is no tu
It’s fitting that I write this review today, because 230 years ago today on Feb. 10, 1791, the events that changed the lives of our three main characters: Nella, Eliza and Caroline took place.

Who are these three?

First, there’s Nella, the apothecary. Her timeline takes place in 1791. After the death of her mother 20 years prior, she’s been running her mother’s apothecary shop which has had a long history of helping women with whatever ails them. The only difference is that where her mother only
Jan 28, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley, audio
Once again, we have an historical fiction using the split time period device. And once again, I was not taken by the present day story. The historic story grabbed me. It’s 1791 and Nella is a woman’s apothecary, providing formulas for all sorts of women’s problems, especially problem men. When 12 year old Eliza is sent to her shop for a “remedy”, they form a friendship. Unfortunately, it’s not long before a client seeks to violate one of Nella’s rules (harm no women) and everything is put at ris ...more
Apr 06, 2021 rated it it was ok
I am aware that my feedback on this novel will take me to the minority club, unfortunately, I expected much, much more ... Having waited for several months, I was eager to start the audiobook, however, despite good narrators, the book did not deliver. Why? Some moments I found implausible, and I do not mean the dual timeline, not at all. In fact, if you asked me when the book is set, I would be able to define the time only because the dates are given in the book. I did not find anything unique a ...more
Claire Smith
Mar 27, 2021 rated it did not like it
This concept needs to be confiscated from Sarah Penner immediately and given to literally any other writer.

Between the lovely cover, the book of the month club endorsement and the promise of a Georgian female serial killer working on behalf of wronged women, I was so excited for this book. To say it was a letdown is a massive understatement.

I was expecting a sort of “How’d she get away with it” revenge narrative about a woman who has been pushed to the brink by the cruelty of men and good-old-
This is a Historical Fiction, but I would not call this a Historical Fantasy Fiction. I did not find any fantasy in this book, but there is a little bit of Magical Realism in this book. This book jumps from the 1700's told by Nella and Eliza point of view and current day in the point of view of Caroline. Caroline's life in coming apart, and her life runs into the story of Nella and Eliza. I have to say I loved Nella and Eliza's character and storyline. I liked Caroline storyline, but I could hav ...more
Mar 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
The Lost Apothecary is a beautiful tapestry of mystery, murder, suspense, guilt, discovery, and historical adventure as it unfolds in the dark alleyways of late eighteenth-century London. With the second period in modern times, Caroline Parcewell is an American, visiting London on what was planned as her tenth wedding anniversary celebration, until she discovered her husband had an affair. Now she is using the trip to gain space to think about where her life is going and why she never
Sarah Penner's debut is an intriguing and atmospheric piece of historical fiction revolving around women, set in the tail end of the 18th century in London, a story that shifts from the past and the present. In the 1790s, a once reputable apothecary, Nella, has ventured into darker and more dangerous territory, that of dispensing poisons to desperate women in dire situations due to the men who have damaged or wronged them. She intends that no woman is harmed, and she records her transactions in ...more
Jan 10, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, audiobook
This was a dual timeline narrative, with one part of the story in present day London, and one in London of the 1700’s. It was well written and interesting.

In the 1700’s timeline, we have Nella, the secretive and isolated matron of the apothecary, spending her days allowing women of London to obtain potions and natural poisons to take care of the wayward men in their lives. Also narrating chapters in this timeline is Eliza, who at 12 years old was sent to obtain a poison for her mistress and the
Feb 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Nella Clavinger in the late eighteenth century is a ‘friend’ to women and a ‘brewer of secrets’ and twelve year old maid Eliza Fanning is sent to consult her on behalf of her mistress. In the twenty first century American Caroline Parcewell is on vacation and takes up Bachelor Alf’s offer to join a mudlarking search. Her discovery on the banks of the Thames takes her in a journey of investigation, self discovery and realisation. The story is told by these three women.

This is fabulous storytelli
Sheyla ✎
Two timelines. Two different centuries. Women impacted by deceit.

In 1791, we meet Nella. She is a woman in her forties. She owns an apothecary just like her mother did before her. The difference is that while her mother used it for healing purposes, Nella after a terrible event in her life has decided to use it for murder. Nella supplies poisons to women who want to eliminate a man in their lives. It can be a brother, a father, a husband. Nella's only rules are not to harm women and to keep a l
Feb 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
"Fancy joining us for mudlarking?" These words would soon jump start Caroline Percewell's unfulfilled dreams of pursuing a graduate degree and researching obscure documents, rare books and perhaps propel her to further exploration of past centuries. Caroline had expected to celebrate her tenth anniversary with her husband James in London. While James had been climbing the corporate ladder with the goal to become a partner in his firm, Caroline's happiness had played second fiddle. First love, th ...more
myo (myonna reads)
good for her
Jessica | JustReadingJess
I LOVED The Lost Apothecary. From the very beginning I was drawn into Nella and Caroline’s stories. The past and present intertwine in this great novel. The chapters alternate between Nella and Caroline’s stories. These characters are complex and trying to do the best they can. Nella is trying to help women especially her new friend Eliza. Caroline is trying to decide what makes her happy. The Lost Apothecary shows how far some women would go to rebel against a man’s world. I loved how unique th ...more
Holly  B

I'm torn between two timelines...

1791 Timeline was much more enjoyable for me.

18th century London, an apothecary (Nella) who creates poisons to help women who need to "rid" themselves of husbands who have harmed them in some way. Her hidden shop is located in a secret wall on a dark alley where she creates her concoctions, creating a legacy of revenge. Her visitors know of her and come knocking.

The modern day timeline about Caroline felt disconnected and foriegn to the historical s
Jan 28, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2021, netgalley
Well I think this is another case of my expectations being far different than what the book ended up being. Maybe I can’t really fault the author for that, but honestly after reading the description I just thought this was going to be something else entirely.

I mean based off of these quotes:

“female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them”

“unsolved ‘apothecary murders’ that haunted London“

“not everyone will survive”

I thought that The Lost Apothe
Hurray to a fantastic debut novel to Sarah Penner

This dual timezone Historical Fiction novel was a nice change of pace and theme for me! I listened to the audiobook and the narrators definitely itched it up a notch for me!

In 1791 in London, England Nella has continued running her mother's old Apothecary. Nella has had a difficult life and now sees it as her business to help women who are treated very badly by the men in their lives - she concocts potions that helps to be rid of them forever. One
Larry H
Mar 24, 2021 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.

The Lost Apothecary , Sarah Penner's debut novel, features dual-narrative historical fiction with a dash of mystery and drama.

In late-1700s England, Nella works as an apothecary. Like her mother before her, Nella’s potions and powders and salves bring comfort and aid to women for their physical and emotional issues. But unlike her mother, Nella’s business has a more sinister side—she’s known secretly as the woman to see when a woman needs to take care of an abusive or philandering h
Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
4.5 stars
Take a step into the time when life was difficult for women, where men ruled the day, where choices were limited for those who were trapped in situations that they couldn't escape. This was London in the 1790's, a place that often seem dark and dismal for its many inhabitants, a place of intrigue, a place of secrets. Find a small shop hidden away in Back Alley that tried to aid these women in finding solutions and a tinge of magic in their journey. Follow a present day woman, newly arr
Anna Chatziantonoglou
Mar 10, 2021 rated it it was ok
Feeling cute, might apply to Cambridge later 🙄
Apr 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Sarah Penner is A Superstar! I was not expecting to Love this book as much I did. She is now one of my Favorite authors! I have never rooted so hard for any characters in my life. This book had my heart beating so fast! My emotions were all over the place. I might of even cried a little bit. Maybe a tear or two. Lol! I wish I could give 6 stars instead of 5. I would Highly recommend reading this book ASAP! 🥇🥇🥇🥇
Feb 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio-books, arc
A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course

Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman. Rule

Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

What a phenomenal debut novel for Sarah Penner!! I am so honored to be one of the first to read this book!! I had no idea what this book was about when I requested a c
Tamar...light at the end of the tunnel?
I enjoyed this book told from two women's POVs and that of a 12 year old child at the brink of womanhood, in two timelines separated by more than three centuries. There are common threads and common plot elements and tons of atmosphere from then and now. Both women are deceived with different results, one is unwittingly poisoned while the other unwittingly poisons, both are pursued by the police, and both use their experience to take control over their lives and achieve personal satisfaction in ...more
Sarah Penner
Dec 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Shelves: slp
Dear Reader,

Last summer, long before lockdown, I found myself standing in the mud of the River Thames in central London, wearing blue rubber gloves and a pair of old tennis shoes. I was mudlarking—hunting the river for old treasures, which is the inspiration for my debut novel, The Lost Apothecary. Given such an adventure would be impossible right now, I hope my novel provides you an opportunity to escape back in time and embark on a story that begins with one woman’s discovery of a mysterious v
Kim ~ It’s All About the Thrill
An Apothecary shop that caters to your every need...whether it be helping with an ailment or kill your husband? Ummm yes please! Sign me up for a read that promises to be dark and twisted.

This storyline alternates between 1791 and present day. I was gripped instantly as the story started to build. Flash back to the 1790's and a mere 13 year old girl pondering murder? Will the apothecary owner assist her with this? Nella has assisted many of women in her time, but a child this young? As this plan
MaryannC. Book Freak
This was such an engrossing and fascinating read for me, encompassing the wonderful pastime of mudlarking coupled with a dual story line this had me gripped from page one till the very end.
Caroline is a young woman anticipating the near day when she and her husband James will fly to London to make plans for their future and celebrate their 10th anniversary. But all the happy plans are crushed for Caroline when she discovers James has been having an affair. To now contemplate the future and escap
Mar 06, 2021 rated it it was ok
This is a disappointing read with implausible situations, melodramatic characters, and obvious contrivances. It often raises more questions than it answers. The emotions of the characters are unrealistic, so the characters themselves also seem unrealistic. Contradictions only add to the lack of believability. The drama in the story is heightened too artificially.

First we have Nella, one of the historic protagonists. She's chronically depressed as well as chronically ill. On one hand, she's portr
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NYT Bestselling author of The Lost Apothecary (Park Row Books/HarperCollins), to be translated into 23 languages worldwide. To learn more, visit

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What will you do when it's your turn to pick your book club's next read? Well, this is what you won't do: panic. Why not? Because we've dug...
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“First, there was trust. Then, there was betrayal. You cannot have one without the other. You cannot be betrayed by someone you do not trust ... what you have learned is the same heart-wrenching journey of every woman to whom I have sold a poison. And it is, indeed, the same path for me.” 10 likes
“Intermingled in the mess was another, subtler secret ... we were happy, yet unfulfilled. It was possible, I understood now, to be both at the same time.” 6 likes
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