The Alchemist’s Daughter

The Alchemist’s Daughter

By: Katharine McMahon

(Historical Fiction)

The most important thing to know with this book is that it is Historical Fiction, no matter how enticing the word “alchemist” may be.  It refers more specifically to the science of the age than anything of mystical origins, even if I was secretly hoping for more.  It seemed really promising at first, with a little girl obediently following her father, helping with and observing his experiments, but as the story progressed, I started to like it less and less.  First, let me talk about what I liked.

The book is really beautifully written.  Now, maybe I only think that because this book was in fact an audio book, read by a woman with a lovely English accent…but I think it was more than just that.  The descriptions were clear and vivid, with no shortage of them, making it easy to put oneself in the story.  There was also something about the way the prose was put together that felt to me like how a novel should sound, if that makes any sense.  Also, I’m assuming the author did her research, because the history presented in the story, especially the alchemical experiments and theories, seemed impeccably accurate, although I’m no expert.  The true historical sense of alchemy, as it was in those days was really fascinating to me.

What I liked least about this novel, was the story itself, and largely the main character.  Now, perhaps it is not that the story is bad, it’s just that it wasn’t really what I wanted.  A sheltered girl, first dominated by her father and then by her husband, is not my usual fare.  But despite my distaste for the situations presented in the story, the idea of an alchemist (scientist) father, raising his daughter as if she were an experiment was both wrong, and an interesting psychological study.  Perhaps, had he raised her properly, and taught her what she really needed to know, she wouldn’t have fallen madly in love with the first hot guy that came around.  Especially since he was so clearly a bag guy from the first moment he appeared on the page.  I kept feeling like the main character should have been smarter, or more aware, even with her sheltered upbringing.  She was so smart in every other area, you would think she could have figured it out sooner.  As a result of all this I was really disliking the book for a while, but I was already more than half way through, so I couldn’t give up on it at that point.

I have to say, the ending, although I won’t describe it much here, made me dislike the story less.  I had expected a bleak ending where the main character was trapped in a mess of her own misguided making, but it worked out a bit better than that, and depending on how you envision what happens after the book ends, you could say it was almost happy.

Ultimately, this was not my favorite book.  My feelings after finishing it are relatively neutral, which I suppose is better than hating it.  Until next time…

Happy Reading! 🙂


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