Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Lost Apothecary” as Want to Read:
The Lost Apothecary
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Lost Apothecary

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  1,555 ratings  ·  878 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, 320 pages
Published March 2nd 2021 by Park Row
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Lost Apothecary, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
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

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,555 ratings  ·  878 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Lost Apothecary
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
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
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: audiobook, netgalley
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
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
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
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
Jan 28, 2021 rated it liked it
Now available!!
Pub day: Mar 2, 2021

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 sur
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
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
Amy Meyerson
Mar 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sarah Penner kept me guessing until the last page of this addictive, atmospheric novel about an apothecary, who concocts poisons to help women exact revenge on men who have betrayed them, and the woman who uncovers her secrets over 200 years later. Meticulously researched, The Lost Apothecary is both a cure for idleness and a recipe for intrigue. Prepare to be consumed by this carefully plotted, propulsive debut.
The Lost Apothecary

A mesmerizing debut novel about womanhood, feminism, betrayal, vengeance and a stained legacy

1791 : Nella, Eliza
Present : Caroline

The story line is aesthetically written. Interchanging between the past and the present makes it more interesting and captivating. The narrative is very exquisite and have that old-fashioned classy feeling in to It.
Throughout the novel, the author heartily writes about feminism and womanhood. Women supporting women, from Nella's rules about
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Mar 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Quick thoughts:

How about this beautiful cover?

Listen to this premise: “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.”

Told in two timelines, present day and London in the 1700s, The Lost Apothecary is atmospheric hist fic gold! Full of secrets, lies, suspense, drama, and betrayal, I loved this engrossing and juicy story from start to finish.

Genre-wise, I would say The Lo
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
Jan 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
After having such a bad reading month, it’s nice to have two back-to-back great reads. First, Chris Whitaker’s We Begin at the End, and now Sarah Penner’s The Lost Apothecary !

This feminist historical fiction story focuses on three point of views in a dual storyline—1790s and Present Day London. In the present day, Caroline is running from her troubles and on vacation touring London. Caroline is hoping this vacation will give her the answers she needs to solve her current problems. While tou
Blog Tour Feb. 26th!

The Lost Apothecary is an historical fiction with a dual timeline set in 1791 London and the present day. Both of these timelines deal with secrets and the agency of women. Both story arcs are born out of betrayal. The pain from one betrayal leads one woman to turn her apothecary into a means for other women to free themselves of the men in their lives. Whether it be their husband or employer Nella serves up doses of poison to kill them but make it look like they died of
Theresa Alan
Feb 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars

The Lost Apothecary is historical fiction that follows two storylines told from three points of view. In the present day, Caroline is alone in England on what was supposed to be a trip to celebrate her tenth wedding anniversary. She’s reeling from discovering her husband’s infidelity. She’d wanted to get a degree from Cambridge as her passions are history and British literature, but she gave up on her dream when she got married and chose a safe life working the books on her family farm.
Feb 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
Murder by poison throughout England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was carried mostly by women. “The largest population of accused poisoners consisted of mothers, wives, and female servants… Motives ranged widely: grudges against employers, the removal of inconvenient spouses or lovers, death benefits…”

London, 1791. Nella is an owner of an apothecary. Her mother started the shop for women’s maladies (as similar help provided by men was hardly helpful to women). She never intended to
After learning of her husband’s affair, Caroline travels to London where she hopes to spend time alone and decide what she will do as she moves forward with her life.

Once there, a series of unexpected events draw her into researching “the lost apothecary”. The mysterious apothecary existed two hundred years ago, and the details surrounding the murders and disappearance were never fully exposed. As Caroline begins to delve into the circumstances related to the apothecary, she soon realizes that s
Madison Warner Fairbanks
The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
Contemporary and historical women’s fiction. Alternating chapters from 1791 and present day.
1791 Eliza, a twelve year servant tasked with killing her employers husband with a poison from the hidden apothecary.
1791 Nella, an aging and sick spinster has been disbursing poisons to women since she lost her own child in death.
Present day Caroline, a woman traveling alone in London after finding out her husband has had an affair. She finds an intriguing glass vial
Jan 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
Wow! This is an excellent debut novel Sarah Penner! The story is told in two timelines, both in London: one in the 1790s and one in present day. In the 1790s, Nella is an apothecary with a hidden, secret shop where she dispenses poisons to women who are in desperate situations due to men. Nella has two rules she lives by: 1) Do no harm to women, and 2) Record the names of both the woman and the victime in her journal. A young girl comes into Nella's life, Eliza Fanning, who precipitates the risk ...more
Dec 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Few stories take less than a page to lock me in their grasp, but The Lost Apothecary was certainly one of the few! I was taken instantly into the depths of 18th Century London, and I mean the depths, to discover a woman who chooses a dangerous path not for her own benefit, but because of her own pain, and with an unsolicited assistant amid much misgivings. Concurrently, we meet another woman whose pain brings her to the same London but in the modern day. As she unearths secrets long buried in th ...more
Eva K (journeyofthepages)
Feb 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
I loved the story of The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner! I fell in love with all the female characters and was invested in them from the beginning. The premise of this novel is really intriguing! Told from three points of view and in two periods of time, you are provided with a thriller in the 1700s and a mystery in the present day.

As her debut novel, Penner really impresses! This story is fantastical yet realistic, dramatic but not absurd, touching but not sappy, and overall empowering for wom
Jan 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2021
This was one of my most anticipated reads for Winter 2021 and I'm thrilled to say I loved it! I was captivated by this debut novel by Sarah Penner in which we follow two women, learn how their secrets affect them and watch as their stories weave together. Nella, in 1700s London, is an apothecary who provides women with means to avenge themselves with the men who have hurt them. Caroline in present day London finds one of the apothecary's vials while mudlarking along the Themes. She had come to L ...more
Jan 21, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of the film Practical Magic
4.25 Enchanting Stars!

“The best apothecary is the one who knows intimately the despair felt by her patient…”


RELEASE DATE - March 2, 2021

I was selected to review the AUDIO version of this book. Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Audio!

As soon as I read the blurb for this book (and saw that gorgeous cover), I was immediately intrigued. The idea of a lost apothecary buried in the walls of London that catered to a secret network of women fascinated me.

The story is told in three d
emily • emilybookedup
Mar 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2021-books
3.5 rounded up to 4 on goodreads! a unique, quick story that featured strong, brave female characters and i looooved that. eliza + nella = dream👏🏼team👏🏼 loved the dual POVs and how the author wove them together. full review to come in March on my Instagram!
Feb 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
My interest in this book was piqued by the cover and some of the excellent reviews here on GR. I happen to like stories set in different timelines and I was not disappointed. The characters of Nella and Eliza are very well drawn out and early in the book I could relate to them. Caroline, I liked a little less; I thought her a rather unreliable person because during the story there are many times, she decides not to disclose something that would have helped other people. Or even herself. Yes, her ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
My debut novel, The Lost Apothecary, hits bookshelves on March 2, 2021! (Park Row Books/HarperCollins)

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Rose Code
  • Mother May I
  • Band of Sisters
  • Sparks Like Stars
  • The Drowning Kind
  • The Kitchen Front
  • The Last Bookshop in London: A Novel of World War II
  • Every Last Fear
  • Surviving Savannah
  • Three Women
  • Hour of the Witch
  • The Paris Dressmaker
  • The Vines
  • Good Company
  • Who Is Maud Dixon?
  • The Last Goodbye
  • When the Stars Go Dark
  • Her Dark Lies
See similar books…

Articles featuring this book

If you ask us, it's always the perfect time to lose yourself in a page-turning mystery. To help you sleuth out a new read, we asked the...
88 likes · 79 comments
“To me, the allure of history lay in the minutiae of life long ago, the untold secrets of ordinary people.” 0 likes
“My mother had held tight to this principle, instilling in me from an early age the importance of providing a safe haven - a place of healing - females.” 0 likes
More quotes…