Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

Janie is angry when her parents move her from Los Angeles to London in order to escape the McCarthy hearings.  Feeling like an outcast at her new school she is drawn to Benjamin who has the nerve to stand up to teachers.  Benjamin is the son of the neighborhood apothecary but rather than carry on the family business, he has dreams of becoming a spy. The two become caught up in a real adventure when Benjamin's father is threatened by a German man.  Before putting Janie and Benjamin in a hiding place his father gives them a very old book called the Pharmacopoeia and warns them to guard it with their lives.  The book contains directions to become invisible and ways to turn into birds, among other things.  The two friends find themselves caught up in an international conspiracy with spies on all sides and no idea who they can trust.  This is an unusual story.  It is a nuclear arms race during the Cold War but then includes bits of fantasy with the Pharmacopoeia.