The Alchemist’s Daughter by Katharine McMahon



[Click the cover below to check it out! If you don’t see a book cover below, it’s probably ad-blocker settings]

[I’ve seen multiple different covers for this book. Mine is all covered with gold and fancy af]

“Raised by her father in near isolation in the English countryside, Emilie Selden is trained as a brilliant natural philosopher and alchemist. In the spring of 1725, father and daughter embark upon their most daring alchemical experiment to date—attempting to breathe life into dead matter. But when Emilie—against her father’s wishes—experiences the passion of first love, she is banished to London, where she soon discovers she knows nothing about human nature—or her own family’s complicated past. So begins her shocking journey to enlightenment.”



So up front I just wanna say that all except maybe two[?], pretty much every male in this book is a total douchebag. Like I was all stoked at a good feminism-friendly book, but instead the author does a really good job at making you feel deep, pulsing misandry towards almost all of the males in the story. :T 

Ultimately the story is that Emilie, raised in the 1700’s, was also raised solely by her father, a reclusive, rather mean, alchemist. So in his raising of her, he didn’t raise her as a human child. He raised her in reclusive settings and little to no interaction with other people, let alone the outside world, and especially not the opposite gender. She wasn’t allowed to be a child, because to him she was merely an experiment. She was treated like a lab rat rather than, you know, an actual human.

This has made Emilie very awkward, and ‘strange.’ Sure, she’s brilliant and a published scientist which was nearly unheard of in those times, but knows nothing of the outside world and anything outside of how civilization actually works. So her life of never being allowed to see men, for example, she very suddenly is faced with a dashing gentleman and is attracted to him like a moth to a flame.

Unfortunately, this dashing gentleman is also an incredible asshole. Despite  that she did love him for some time, and enjoyed having sex with him [a lot], their first time wasn’t consensual which she took to be ‘normal,’ and despite this, her father abandons her because his ‘experiment’ failed. He wanted her to be an emotionless, hormone-excluded robot of sorts.

So then comes the rest of the book where she’s married to her douchebag husband and suddenly is thrust into modern society where she is absolutely clueless and others take advantage of her. A lot. In addition to that whereas in her small secluded life, she was greatly respected for her mind – in the misogynistic and still-closed-minded London of the 1700’s, she’s laughed at for her gender, considered a fluke, and even called ‘mad.’  Without giving a lot more away, she does ultimately get back on her feet towards the very end, but not without great sacrifice. She learns more about herself then and realizes that despite not so strong roots, she can grow to once again give a name for herself.

The first half of the book was pretty hard to get through, I’ll admit. It’s hard to read over how Emilie’s father treats her, despite that he actually did love her in his own fucked up way. It’s also hard to read how she’s treated by men and other women of the times, and especially her husband. Yes, it’s a realistic view of women of those times, but it doesn’t make it any easier to stomach.

As a forewarning, there is also a lot of rape, death during/by childbirth, and dying/dead babies in general. It’s all valid for women and what they dealt with for the times, but yeesh.

Otherwise, however, the author does a pretty amazing job at playing with your emotions and describing every last detail of Emilie’s misery, all the while rooting for her in hopes it will get better.


Overall, I give The Alchemist’s Daughter 4/5 Dried, Preserved Roses


“A small night creature had been caught in its scurry between one sheltering leaf and another. The owl was as delicate in her operations as my father when he dissected a rat. She drew out the creature’s entrails in a translucent slide of mucus and tissue. I knew how it felt to be torn open like that.”




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