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The Alchemist's Daughter Paperback – 6 Sep 2006

3.9 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; New Ed edition (6 Sept. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753821311
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753821312
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 381,782 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"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"

Book Description

A classic, page-turning story of secrets and science, passion and betrayal, innocence and experience - in the tradition of Tracy Chevalier and Philippa Gregory

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 17 Mar. 2006
Format: Hardcover
From the first few sentences I was gripped - the pictures of the old manor house, the alchemist's laboratory, the heroine and her father were so clear. To follow Emilie's fortunes I read the book fast and so did all the workmates I leant it to. We agreed we'd have to read it again to enjoy the writing a second time; it evokes time and place so convincingly.Some parts are very exciting - I won't give the plot away - in other parts you suspect the writer is having a quiet laugh about human foibles - as with the pair who come to knock down and improve the manor house to the very latest in Palladian villa style. Much is shown without lecturing us about it - the position of women at the time,the slave trade, as well as movements in thought and science.
Throughout we are on Emilie's side - sometimes she's foolish or naive, but she's always intelligent and strong with a passion for life. It is this, of course, that has her win through at the end.
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By A Customer on 22 Mar. 2006
Format: Hardcover
An unusual perspective on the life of an early 18th century woman who has been brought up by her alchemist father to be an experimental scientist in the tradition of Isaac Newton. She has an independent mind but is so sheltered from the outside world that the easy charm of an ambitious suitor turns her mind from the pursuit of academic and scientific knowledge to a sudden and thrilling understanding of the possibilities of her own body. I liked the development of the emotional and sexual character of the heroine and also the thorough research that the author has clearly done to bring this very interesting period to life - one has complete confidence in the truth of the detail. It's always wonderful to approach any period in history through the eyes of a woman.
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Format: Hardcover
Emilie is the subject of an early 18th century experiment - her father aims to turn her into a natural philosopher and alchemist. Shut away in a secluded manor house he trains her in science and records her progress. All changes when her father is away and a young merchant arrives. Emilie is plunged into society and quickly realises that for all her knowledge she understands nothing about the working of the world and of human emotion.
The novel is beautifully written - a gripping story with crisp, evocative decsriptions. The setting reminded me of Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring, but Katharine McMahon's prose approaches the standard of Ian McEwan and Pat Barker. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a very good book.It's well written and the story is gripping. The heroine is strong and intelligent with a passion for life. We care what happens to her.
Behind her personal story run some important themes; the growth of science, the position of women in history, wealth, poverty and the slave trade. It is part of the writer's skill that she shows these things for us to think about, without ever lecturing.
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Format: Paperback
Although this seems like another historical romance with a bit of science thrown in, it actually offers a lot more - if you care to look for it. What i found most enjoyable was the Lacanian notion of the self that ran throughout the novel. You can see this in the way Emilie constantly refers to herself as "she" when looking in the mirror. Backed up with Emilie's restless searching of her mother and thus her true identity.

The book also questions whether intellect can have a positive impact on humanity. Emilie has grown up, sheltered from the darkness of human life and has indulged only in the practices of alchemy. But clearly this is not enough to live a happy life and Emilie must learn herself - the hard way - of how to live and interact with people.

McMahon writes beautifully. The book was fluid and poised and was filled with a great mysterious atmosphere. You can practically smell the mustiness of Emilie's old alchemical textbooks!
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Format: Hardcover
The Alchemist's Daughter is a wonderfully satisfying and page turning read which works as a historical romance, and a fascinating exploration of nature and nurture. The heroine, Emilie, has been brought up to continue her father's scientific exploration, rather as one of his experiments, but when nature in the form of emotion enters her life - she is ill-equipped to deal with it. The background is the Enlightenment and the author's descriptions are as acutely observed as the discoveries themselves. Emilie's mistakes are understandable, her self discovery compassionate and believable. The author doesn't insult the readers' intelligence by tying up every end - but rightly ends it as the heroine opens new doors in her life. This is a multi faceted book which is stimulating and hugely enjoyable. I look forward to this author's next venture.
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Format: Hardcover
I wasn't sure what to make of this, part mystery part romance, the novel seemed to shift from one genre to another as it progressed. This is a tale of self-discovery set against a conventional romance plot. The relationship between the heroine and the two men was the weakest part of the story - a predictable variation of the usual contest between Mr Dashing-but-dastardly versus Mr Dull-but-decent whom she rejects (due to a misunderstanding of course) in preference to Mr Dashing's fancy ways before discovering the error of her ways. Austen should have copyrighted that one.

However, the other characters were very well drawn and the relationship with her father poignantly evoked. McMahon convincingly conveys the chaotic 18th C world along with the various scientific advances and tackles issues such as women's roles and slavery without being preachy - altogether a good read but not the classic it might have been.
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