Rebecca's Reviews > The Apothecary's Daughter

The Apothecary's Daughter by Charlotte Betts
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it was amazing

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The Apothecary's Daughter was the most enchanting, beautiful, enthralling story I have read in a long time. It's been a while since a story has had me as absorbed as I was with this. Charlotte Betts has done an amazing job of bringing England in the 1600's to life. The hustle and bustle of London, the people, the homes, the clothes; never have I read a book that has enabled me to imagine everything so picture perfect in my mind. Alls I can say is WOW, what an epic adventure The Apothecary's Daughter takes you on.

Susannah has always led a comfortable life living and working in the apothecary shop alongside her father, Cornelius. Although they are not living the life of luxury, they have everything they need right there, and most importantly, they have each other. Susannah's mother died during child-birth, so since then it has just been her and her father. Until one day, Cornelius declares that he has fell in love with a woman called Arabella, and Susannah doesn't understand why. Arabella is a materialistic lady who doesn't deserve her father's love. When Arabella and her misbehaving children move into the apothecary shop, Susannah realises that the shop and home that she loves is no longer big enough for the both of them. Marriage, betrayal and hardship await Susannah as she leaves her home and sets out to start her own adventure. As the plague extends it's claws and takes many people that Susannah knows and loves, life begins to become unbearable.

The story is set in London, England, and it begins in 1665. Charlotte Betts takes the reader and drops them straight into the story, beginning in the apothecary shop where the main character Susannah works and lives with her father. There is a lot of focus on setting, which is essential in a story based in the past. Charlotte Betts takes special care to ensure she describes everything that you would have seen/heard/smelt in that era. She describes the church bells ringing, the many people passing by in Fleet Street, and even a street urchin launching a snowball at the window. Throughout the novel, detail is always paid great attention to, which really brings the story to life. It progresses further into the 1600s as the plot goes on, really intertwining the reader with Susannah's life.

Something that plays a huge role in the story is the black plague. As the novel progresses, many people are taken away to be buried, houses locked up with red crosses painted on their doors, informing everyone that another family has succumbed to the deadly plague. It's heartbreaking to imagine living in a time when people dropped down like flies and were taken away on the death cart to be thrown in a pit, like rubbish in a skip. I think Charlotte Betts does a fantastic job of creating a life full of heartache and turmoil. The risks people took just walking out in the street, staying as far away from each other as possible, so as not to risk contamination. At a time like that, no one actually knew what precisely caused the plague to begin with, so all precautions were taking. I can't even begin to imagine how frustrating that would have been for people living in that era. The plague continues on as the story moves forward, taking many lives and playing a major role in the life that Susannah leads.

The main character, Susannah, is a innocent young woman. She enjoys working in the shop alongside her father, administering ointments, hoping to aid the unwell. The reader's senses are opened up to the everyday smells that Susannah experiences whilst working in the apothecary; sulphur, lavender, rosemary and turpentine. After learning from her father, Susannah knows every illness and what can help to soothe or ease the pain. Susannah is a smart woman, who can defend herself and finds her happy life with her father to be a blessing. Since the death of her mother, she is petrified of giving birth, worried sick that she too will die during childbirth. This thought plagues Susannah throughout the novel, and it is something that puts her off marriage entirely, knowing that marriage means a child. When her father's new wife moves into her home, Susannah is shifted aside and made to feel like nanny for her step brothers and sisters. She's not too fussed on finding herself a husband, in fact I do believe that Susannah would happily stay working with her father until the end of time.

Cornelius is Susannah's father. I did like Cornelius when he first appears in the story, but once he falls for the horrible Arabella, I didn't like him. I know it's not his fault, he's a man and man like attractive people. I just couldn't believe how he would go along with everything that Arabella says, and ignore the pleas from his only daughter. That was a big mistake on his part, but I guess that needed to happen so that Susannah could go out and make her own way in the world. He's a sad man. Even when he's smiling and happy you can still sense a sadness within him, a sadness that comes from losing his wife during childbirth. He sees a lot of his late wife in Susannah, as he says a few times that she reminds him of her. He does care about Susannah, an awful lot. I think he just becomes a bit blinded by his love for Arabella. He's a selfless man, and he works hard alongside Susannah in the shop. It is nice to see him happy but I just can't believe he chooses to bring Arabella into his home.

Arabella is a horrible woman. She's introduced to us before Cornelius invites her to dinner, as she comes into the shop and takes a good look around. She admits later on that she had only came to see what she was getting herself in for. She slates Susannah's home a lot, and soon takes over the running of the shop which annoys Susannah a hell of a lot. She's very materialistic and has little tantrums when she can't get what she wants, for example, a new dress or hat. She soon gets her claws into Cornelius, and they're married before you can say the word "b*itch". She's spiteful to Susannah most of the time, she very rarely has a nice word to say, and she fits the bill of an evil stepmother perfectly.
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You also have Martha, who is Susannah's bestfriend. She lives with her husband and her house full of children. She's fantastic in this story, always full of good advice and wise words. I love the little visits that Susannah takes to visit Martha, they're lovely and they have a wonderful friendship. When we meet Martha she has just realised that she has another baby on the way, and Susannah is ecstatic for her. Although it never takes away the panic of giving birth to a child of her own. The relationship between these is two is perfect; Martha offers a place of solace and comfort for Susannah when things get tough back at the shop.

Dr Ambrose is the doctor of their town. He makes frequent visits to the apothecary shop, and does a lot of business with Cornelius. He reminds me a lot of Mr Darcy; he's very cool, aloof and likes to remain quite mysterious. He very rarely shows any emotion, apart from a few, and I mean FEW tiny smirks now and again. I was quite taken with Dr Ambrose. He seems moody, but Susannah seems to find herself drawn to him for some strange reason, which she doesn't quite understand. Dr Ambrose does become quite an important person in Susannah's life later on in the story. He's actually a lovely man, and spends a lot of time working with his patients as the plague begins to strengthen.

Henry is Dr Ambrose's cousin. He goes to London from Barbados after working on his uncle's plantation. Henry has a lot of dark secrets from the past, and he offers Susannah his hand in marriage. I didn't like Henry from the get go, he seems so egotistic and very sure of himself. As the reader finds out later in the book though, not all is as it seems with Henry. There's a lot of twists and turns in the story involving this guy. I've never really been too keen on blonde guys anyway, it's always been tall, dark and handsome for me.

I think that's some of the main characters summed up for you. Alls that is left for me to say is how much I absolutely adored this story! It has been a refreshing read for me, a change from the erotic/romance novels that have taken over the shelves lately! Not that I have a problem with any of those of course, but sometimes it's just nice to have a change.

I think that if I could have given this novel more than five stars I wouldn't have hesitated to do so. This book is dripping with history and the old days, and it's so interesting as well as entertaining to read. I just absolutely loved every single page! It was exciting! It was intriguing! It was just bloody fantastic.

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Reading Progress

August 14, 2013 – Started Reading
August 14, 2013 – Shelved
August 15, 2013 –
32.0% "Argh I am LOVING this so far! So beautiful; Old England, the ladies wearing the gorgeous dresses and the handsome men. I could happily stamp on Arabella's stupid fat head though, and if Susannah doesn't do it soon, I'll just have to step into the book and do it myself, spiteful b*tch. Excuse my french. [image error] "
August 15, 2013 –
32.0% "Arrgh I am LOVING this so far! So beautiful; Old England, the ladies wearing the gorgeous dresses and the handsome men. I could happily stamp on Arabella's stupid fat head though, and if Susannah doesn't do it soon, I'll just have to step into the book and do it myself, spiteful b*tch. Excuse my french. \n [image error] "
August 16, 2013 – Finished Reading

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