I bought this book based on two criteria: 1) the reviews I had read/heard etc; 2) the cover looked nice haha
Unfortunately, although the book looks nice on my bookcase, it failed to live up to the reviews. I have not read Clark's other novel "The Great Stink" but I don't think that that should discredit my review.
First of all, I should note that the book started off decent enough. I could see how it was going to develop into an intriguing and interesting account of England shortly after the Fire. Sadly, my joy soon faded soon after Eliza moved into Mr. Black's apothecary. I soon realized that I felt no sympathy for Eliza, and honestly it's hard to stay interesting in a book when you don't really care what happens to the main character. I can't say much more without divulging secrets and spoiling it (not that would be a bad thing considering how it all turns out) so let me just say that until the last chapter, you feel nothing for Eliza, due mostly with the way that she feels about other characters and how she treats them.
Secondly, although the 'journal' entries of the apothecary are unique and interesting, soon it just gets confusing, especially since they start talking about things that are never mentioned prior to or after that entry. Many times I was left wondering what the heck it was supposed to be telling me. Then it changed from not only journal entries but random letters and notes from various people, again with no consequence or mention of them ever again. Argh!
Thirdly, as the only child of a mid-wife/herbalist you would think that Eliza would be a little more saavy and knowledgeable when it comes to pregnancy/child-birth and (abortion)herbs. That was frustrating, and then at the end I thought, "if her mother knew how to get rid of pregnancy why didn't she just do it instead of sending her to the city to have the baby there?"
The conclusion had to be one of the most frustrating that I had read in awhile. In the last 2 chapters Eliza starts to have some redeeming qualities, but still you're just like 'ok fine, good for her." There is a character that Clark SHOULD have made a love interest (the Clown) and I was waiting until the last sentence for some hint of it, but it never came. Also, THEY NEVER EXPLAIN WHO THE FATHER OF MARY'S BABY IS. If someone knows, PLEASE TELL ME.
Anyways, I was just glad to finish it so I could move onto another book, and since I never leave a book unfinished I was glad to finally do so after a frustrating and agonizing time. I love historical novels, especially ones set in Britain, and this one was a huge disappoint. The other frustration is that I have to see this bloody book displayed at my job (yes, in a nation-wide bookstore) every day, because it's a "recommended read".
Guess I'll never win with this one!