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The Botanist's Daughter

Have you ever read a book that you loved so much that once you finished it, you wondered whether you could ever read another book again? You try and try to find something good enough to help you move on but you are stuck in the world, hanging out with the characters of the previous book you read?

For me, this was The Lost Apothecary. You can read the review of The Lost Apothecary but ultimately, I loved the book. I enjoyed the mystery, the intrigue, the dual timelines, and the powerful female characters.

When I finished the book, I was desperate for something similar. So I went on a search.

"Books like The Lost Apothecary" was what I plugged into a google search. Plenty of books came up. On the list were The Rose Code which I had already read and reviewed, House of Salt and Sorrows which is nothing like The Lost Apothecary but is still amazing (read my review of the House of Salt and Sorrows), and The Book of Lost Names for which I am currently 7/10 in the line of holds at the library.

After a good long search, I came across The Botanist's Daughter. The book's blurb explained that the book was also a dual timeline novel. One timeline follows a woman (Anna) in modern-day Australia who finds a diary, sketchbook of botanical drawings, and a pressed flower along with its seeds hidden away in the walls and ceiling of her grandmother's house. At a loss for what she wants to do next in her life, she takes the chance to follow the mystery, no matter where it takes her. The second timeline follows an early 19th-century botanist's daughter (Elizabeth) who, following her father's death, must complete his mission to find a deadly (but potentially medically powerful) flower in Chile. She will face deadly foes, long trips aboard ships in less than ideal conditions, and sexist communities and must find a way to complete her mission no matter what.

After reading the blurb for The Botanist's Daughter, I knew the book was exactly what I was looking for. It seemed to have the same mystery, intrigue, and powerful women as The Lost Apothecary while being set in a historical setting.

Unfortunately, the local library didn't have the book despite it being published in 2018 (a couple of years ago now). Though I was willing to wait in a line of holds for the book, I wasn't willing to wait for the library to decide they needed a copy. Instead, I found one for myself searching beyond Thriftbooks (who also did not have a copy) to find a second-hand book that I could purchase.

When the book arrived, I finally realized why it had been so hard to track down: the book was originally published in Australia. This news made me even more excited to read the book (which I had been waiting weeks to read while it had been shipped to me) since I knew it would be written with some of the slang I knew so well (or at least closer to this as Aussie slang does differ from Kiwi slang).

When I finally was able to open the book and dive in, I wasn't disappointed one bit!

The prose was elegant and the descriptions stunning. I was immediately drawn into this botanical world described down to the last detail. I could picture the gardens overgrown as the grandma grew older, the beaches Elizabeth swims naked on, and the valley of palms in Chile.

The book was incredibly similar to The Lost Apothecary (in a good way). Both books have dual timelines following one (single) female in the 1800s and another (mostly single) female in today's time. Each has a female "sidekick" (for lack of a better term) that aids the woman in the past. Both have at least some of their scenes set in England. Both involve botany, healing, and poisons which bring in a fantastical element without the book being "fantasy." Instead, this element almost seems to ride the line between science and magic in both books. Both involve a mystery that needs to be solved in the present and a problem that needs to be fixed in the past.

This is where the books differ.

The Botanist's Daughter is much more lighthearted than The Lost Apothecary and includes far fewer morally ambiguous characters. It also involves a lot more romance than The Lost Apothecary which tends to paint romance in a bad light (most of the men in The Lost Apothecary are killed or have women in their lives that want to kill them). The Lost Apothecary also focuses on the wealthy (poisonous) use of plants as well as using other elements (bugs for example). While the apothecary does use her plants for healing on occasion, her services are most often used for harm rather than healing. In contrast, The Botanist's Daughter focuses on the aid that plants can bring as well as their beauty. While the plant being sought by Elizabeth can harm, she seeks it for its medicinal uses, not its poison.

I thought both books were a great blend of science, history, mystery, and feminism. I loved the portrayal of powerful women in an age (1800s) where women were not championed and when single women (like the apothecary) or women going out on their own do things themselves (like Elizbeth) were looked down upon. Both books did an excellent job of unraveling the mystery slowly (though The Lost Apothecary does this even better as you see things coming more so in The Botanist's Daughter). They also each introduced plot twists with excellent precision so that I, as the reader, did not know what would happen. In both books, the endings surprised me and the ending of The Botanist's Daughter (though beautifully written and done well) left me wanting more. I even said out loud, "will there be a second book??"

Don't read one of these books, read them both. And then read them again. They are so good you do not want to miss out.

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