The Alchemist's Daughter is above all a beautifully told story, but like all of McMahon's books that I've read, it's a lot more than that. At the centre of the story is Emilie, the product of her father's experiment to raise her as a 'pure' alchemist to carry on his work. Cut off from the world, she is a first-class natural philosopher with absolutely no concept of basic things, like how to make choices, how to understand the consequences of her father's lifestyle on the people who live on his estates, no idea even that she is a beauty. Naturally, Emilie falls hook line and sinker for the first man who comes her way, and naturally he's a baddy! Emilie, deep in lust, becomes pregnant and hands herself and her inheritance over to her fortune-seeking husband, a man with a passion for unusual collectibles. Emilie quickly discovers that she is one of them, that she has lost her father and her life, and soon loses her baby.
The rest of the story is about Emilie's voyage of discovery. Who is she? What is her past? Who is her husband? Her life unravels, as does that of her tenants, as does her tender relationship with the local priest, whom she quickly realises ought to have been the love of her life. The loss of her child makes her slightly mad. She turns to alchemy in a desperate attempt to restore the world as it once was.
This is a brilliant story, as I've already said. It's a very moving story, seeing Emilie struggle to come to terms with the loss of her child. It's a story that makes you mad, seeing her vain, flighty husband destroy so many lives while she is powerless to stop him, and it makes you frustrated too, because McMahon keeps Emilie true to her upbringing. There is no lion emerging from the frail feminine vessel, she doesn't roll her sleeves up and fight patriarchal power on its own terms - she turns to the one weapon she has, alchemy, and reading this is even harder, because of course we know it's not a weapon at all. Or is it? I turned the last page with a smile on my face, expecting an ending, only to discover that was the ending. It couldn't have been any other way - or it could have, but that would have been a cop out - and though I was gutted that the book had come to an end, it is that rare thing, a brilliant book with a brilliant ending.
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Hachette Book Group (AU)
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The Alchemist's Daughter: A brilliantly plotted historical novel about alchemy, love and deceit Kindle Edition
About the Author
Katharine McMahon is the author of four novels published in the United Kingdom. She lives in Hertfordshire, England. --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
"Perfectly timed and modulated not only to draw us in and wring us out but also to reveal the spirit of a time." --The Boston Globe "Rich in period detail, this historical novel has all the right trappings." --Daily News "Beautifully crafted . . . lavishly furnished with period details and intriguing characters." --Diana Gabaldon, New York Times bestselling author of A Breath of Snow and Ashes, The Washington Post "Evocative, compelling, and beautifully written . . . explosive secrets abound not only in the mysterious alchemy laboratory and in sprawling, seething London during the Age of Reason--but also in the heroine's heart." --Karen Harper, USA Today bestselling author of The Last Boleyn --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B002UP1SV8
- Publisher : Weidenfeld & Nicolson; New e. edition (1 March 2009)
- Language : English
- File size : 882 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 324 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 947,947 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
4.2 out of 5
73 global ratings
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Top reviews from other countries
I loved this so much I didn't want to finish itReviewed in the United Kingdom on 20 May 2018
One person found this helpful
A great read, McMahon really has got the chemistry right...Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 13 May 2008
Well, as soon as you start to read this novel something seems a miss. Emilie's father, John, keeps her birth shrouded in secret until Emilie makes some disturbing mistakes of her own and finds out what life is really like for the unprotected. A great coming of age story - it really seems to be McMahon's forte. Prepare to immerse yourself in the isolation of the manor house: take a historical romp through the back streets of London in the 1720s, stand quietly with your back to the archaic books in Selden's laboratory as he performs yet another life-risking experiment...Definitely worth reading.
3 people found this helpful
A great readReviewed in the United Kingdom on 29 June 2009
I don't normally read historical fiction, but having enjoyed The Rose of Sebastopal last year, I thought I would try this- and I think I enjoyed it more, actually. Katharine McMahon is a really intelligent and expressive writer who can construct a gripping story but still pay attention to detail. Great stuff
3 people found this helpful
History comes alive .Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 December 2015
Detailed historical novel with love interest. Such a good writer.
One person found this helpful
Mr. Peter Warren
The Alchemist's DaughterReviewed in the United Kingdom on 26 June 2010
My wife found this book a wonderful read and recommended it to me. I agree with her and would add that the way this author writes is so skillful. Her literary skills made it a pleasure to read.
2 people found this helpful