The Apothecary is a book for young readers, but like all good books, it is a story that appeals to all ages. A fantasy with some important and often neglected history mixed in, the novel begins with a move from the U.S. to London for fourteen-year-old Janie Scott.
Janie's parents are screen writers in 1952 during the time of the Hollywood Black Lists. When Janie's family comes under surveillance, her parents know that if they are called to testify, they would be asked to name names, putting an end to many careers. They decide to move to London where they have been offered a job working on a television series about Robin Hood.
(By the by, this period in our history is a shameful one that really does deserve more attention. Many innocent people were denied the right of the First Amendment and lost their jobs during the McCarthy witch hunts. John Huston, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Danny Kaye were among those who protested and formed The Organization for the First Amendment. )
Back to the novel, Janie is very unhappy with her parents about this move (something I could identify with as a move at that age brought out the worst in me and drove my poor parents crazy). She misses her old school and her friends; she must attend a new school as the odd-man out. She even has difficulty understanding the English -- same language, different pronunciation.
She does make a new friend, however, in Benjamin Burrows, son of the local apothecary. The Cold War is at its height, the Russians are the enemy, the "duck and dive" mentality is the useless caution against nuclear warfare, spies are everywhere for both the good guys and the bad guys, and treasonous activities occur.
Janie and Benjamin become involved in an adventure neither could have imagined, complete with spies, kidnappings, and magic.
I'm not going to tell you any more, but I am going to send you to Nan's review (Letters from a Hill Farm) because her review is the reason I checked out this book.
I have already Googled a bunch of sites on the Hollywood Blacklist and the House of Un-American Activities Committee and plan to eventually do some nonfiction reading about this period. Although this is background material only for the novel, and I've read some in this area before, my interest has increased.
Fiction. Fantasy/YA. 2011. 353 pages.