Posted by: Natalie Hatch | August 22, 2011

The Apothecary by Meloy Maile

A mysterious apothecary.

A magic book.

A missing scientist.

An impossible plan.  

It’s 1952 and the Scott family has moved unexpectedly from Los Angeles to London. Janie feels uncomfortable in her strange new school, until the local apothecary promises her a remedy for homesickness. But the real cure is meeting the apothecary’s son Benjamin, a curiously defiant boy who dreams of becoming a spy.  

Benjamin’s father is no ordinary apothecary, and when he’s kidnapped, Benjamin and Janie find themselves entrusted with his sacred book, the Pharmacopoeia. And it seems that Russian spies are intent on getting their hands on it. 

What secrets does the book contain? Who is the Chinese chemist Jin Lo? And can they trust a skinny pickpocket called Pip to help them?

Discovering transformative elixirs they never imagined could exist, Janie and Benjamin embark on a dangerous quest to save the apothecary and prevent an impending nuclear disaster.



I rose to the second-storey windows, and then the third. I looked down at myself and saw a smooth, round red-feathered stomach. I was a robin! But there seemed to be something wrong with my wings.

Benjamin and Pip circled overhead, calling out to me, and I fluttered clumsily towards them. I started to think about what I should do to get to where they were, but as soon as I started analysing all the necessary motions, I felt myself fall.

The ground came dizzyingly close, and the children below shouted, “Fly! Fly away!”

I heard a panicked call from the skylark. I willed myself to be near him, stopped thinking, and shot up into the air. The children cheered.

I had sometimes, before that day, had dreams about flying, but dreams had nothing on the real thing. We soared high over the streets of the East End, and the people looked tiny below. We could see where the bombs had fallen in the war, and where they had left buildings untouched. Pip wheeled and hovered and then dived with rocket speed towards the ground before soaring up again with a gleeful, birdlike laugh.

To start with it took me a chapter or two before I was pulled into this novel. I did love the way the author incorporated science into the fantastical world of the Apothecary. Janie took a bit to get used to, at first I didn’t quite like her but once you get into the story you understand her better and her story arc improves, until at the end you really feel for her and think that things might turn out really bad… but I won’t spoil the rest of the story, have a read you’ll understand what I’m talking about.  Janie’s world is turned upside down and she must decide who she can trust. The pace is fairly fast once you get into the story, the world building is great, you really get a feel for it. It’s available in September from Text Publishing (thanks to Steph and the crew for the early read). Meloy has several other novels and short story collections however this is her first Young Adult novel as such.



  1. Having grown up the son of an apothecary (well…pharmacist, but close enough) I feel this book has been specifically written for me. I’ll add it to the list. Thanks for the review Natalie.

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