Sunday, October 29, 2006

Book Review: The Alchemist's Daughter

It's been a while since I picked up a book without knowing anything about the author or reviews, but only because I liked the synopsis on the back cover. So earlier this week I picked up Katharine McMahon's The Alchemist's Daughter because I thought it sounded interesting. Basically the back of the book told about a young woman who is raised in near isolation by her father at his country estate in the first quarter of the eighteenth century. Her father is a natural philosopher, some say an alchemist, and he teaches his daughter all that he knows. But then when she is about nineteen she falls in love for the first time and is banished to London, as the book says. And because of her upbringing, she knows almost nothing about human nature, etc.

I liked the book, but not as much as I thought I would from the description. Historical novels are pretty popular, what with Tracy Chevalier and Sarah Dunant out there, but I'm getting a little tired of these "coming of age" books about young women back in historical times. Mostly because they're usually depressing stories (although I think McMahon here and Dunant in The Birth of Venus include some redeeming happiness at the end) and I don't like to read about sad things. Another thing I learned - I read a lot of romance novels so I've read my fair share of sex scenes, but I do not like reading sex scenes when there is no affection and love between the people. I don't care if it's realistic. I don't want to know about it.

I do think that McMahon did a good job of laying out the theme of this book. Emilie, the main character, did have to come to terms with the harsh consequences of choices that she made because of her inexperience, and I felt sorry for choices that she made in her innocence. I think the best quote of the book come from when she explains to a fellow scientist that her father taught her to believe in what she can see, touch, smell, etc. The scientific way, essentially. But that method does not translate over to people because sometimes they are not what they seem, and she had to learn that the hard way. And in that one statement, the theme of the book can pretty much be summed up.

Lindsey's Grade: B+


Anonymous said...

Entertaining book, worth the read if you are not dying to read anything else.

Anonymous said...

I didn't like this book at all! In fact I couldn't finish it. Very dry...I had no connection at all to the characters. Way too much scientific jargon for me.