Monday, January 03, 2011

The Alchemist's Daughter by Katharine McMahon

The Alchemist's Daughter by Katharine McMahon
Historical Fiction

Emilie Seldon has been crafted by her father to be an alchemist. His goal has been to teach her everything he knows so that she can do great things as a young adult. What her father doesn't understand is that keeping her tethered to his estate and not letting her grow up as a normal kid has left her vulnerable to other's influences.

When Aislabie arrives at the Seldon estate in 1725 to inquire about the nature of fire to protect his ships, Emilie falls in lust. Her father sees Aislabie as a fraud, who just wants to use alchemy to be rich, and kicks him out of the house. Emilie can't let go as easily and continues to see Aislabie.

When Emilie's father learns that she is pregnant with Aislabie's child, he does not talk to her again and she is banished to London. Emilie has to deal with being in a large city by herself, an insolent maid, a distant husband, giving up her passion of alchemy, and her homesickness. She grows up very quickly and though eventually makes the right decisions for her.

This book has a lot of interesting hypotheses of what scientists thought about fire in the 1700s. That's not the main story here, though it provides interesting context. This is a story about Emilie becoming a woman and all the correct and incorrect choices she makes.

Each chapters was broken down in to sub-chapters which I found a bit annoying as it made the story a bit disjoint. Despite this, when I got closer to the end of the story, I couldn't put it down. I wanted to know how Emilie was going to deal with her husband and the other predicaments she was in. Quite a good historical fiction novel!

First Line: "In one of my earliest memories I walk behind my father to the furnace shed."


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