Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Apothecary's Daughter, by Julie Klassen. A Review by Debra

While the last Nook "page" has been turned and I have finished this book, my head and heart are both still in Bedsley Priors with Lillian Haswell and the inhabitants of that small Regency era village.

The Apothecary's Daughter is the story of Lillian and her father, Charles Haswell, the last in a long line of Haswell apothecaries.  Lillian, her father and her brother Charlie (afflicted with what today would be called severe learning disabilities) live above their Apothecary shop, all still reeling from the disappearance of Charles' wife, Rosamund. Lillian spends her days watching the barges on the canal that pass through Bedsley Priors hoping to see her mother return, while she yearns for more to her life. When she turns 18, her mother's brother and wife offer to take her to London, give her a Season, and help her look for a prospective match. She leaves her father, brother, best friend Mary and her father's apprentice, Francis behind, only to return a year and a half later to disaster; her father is gravely ill and his legacy is in jeopardy.  Despite horrible prejudice against women practicing apothecary, she tries to  keep his practice open and thriving, while disguising the fact that she is the one in charge.

Ms. Klassen shows that she's done her research, giving us an extensive and extremely interesting background in the competition between the  three medical professions of the time: apothecary, surgeon and physician. The three fields are pitted against each other as a back drop to Lillian's story, and with it come three (or four) possible rivals for Lillian's hand, if she should choose to recognize them as such.  Lillian is so intent on keeping her father's livelihood viable, caring for him and her brother, that she lets opportunities pass her by, wishing for a different life than what she has, until she realizes that what she has is what she's wanted all along.

A wonderful love story, full of twists, turns and surprises, and without any of what we call "smut" in Bookishly terms.  The Apothecary's Daughter is so worth the read. I loved it and I recommend it highly.

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