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Publisher's Summary

There are long-held secrets at the manor house in Buckinghamshire, England, where Emilie Selden has been raised in near isolation by her father. A student of Isaac Newton, John Selden believes he can turn his daughter into a brilliant natural philosopher and alchemist. Secluded in their ancient house, with only two servants for company, he fills Emilie with knowledge and records her progress obsessively.

In the spring of 1725, father and daughter begin their most daring alchemical experiment to date: they will attempt to breathe life into dead matter. But their work is interrupted by the arrival of two strangers: one a researcher, the other a dazzling young merchant. During the course of a sultry August, while her father is away, Emilie experiences the passion of first love. Listening to her heart rather than her head, she makes a choice.

Banished to London and plunged headlong into a society that is both glamorous and ruthless, Emilie discovers that for all her extraordinary education she has no insight into the workings of the human heart. When she tries to return to the world of books and study, she instead unravels a shocking secret that sets her on her true journey to enlightenment.

The Alchemist's Daughter is a gripping, evocative tale. Set against the backdrop of eighteenth-century London society, it is an unforgettable story of one woman's journey through a world of mystery, passion, and obsession.

©2006 Katharine McMahon (P)2006 Books on Tape

Critic Reviews

"McMahon doesn't shy away from the Enlightenment's darker sides, giving this popular historical a satisfying gravity." (Publishers Weekly)
"Emilie may be a classic fairy-tale heroine on the surface, but this Sleeping Beauty has depth and an increasingly self-aware intelligence." (The Washington Post Book World)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.5 out of 5 stars
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    36
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    70
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    47
  • 2 Stars
    21
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    9

Performance

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    27
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    8
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Story

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Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • D. J.
  • Simi Valley, CA, USA
  • 08-19-06

Excellent!!

I loved this book! I was sad to see it end. It was beautifully read and the reader pulled me deeper into the story. I think that it better suited for women (men won't find it as interesting). Well worth the listen.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Amy
  • Charlotte, NC, USA
  • 04-19-07

Beautiful

This novel was beautifully written and well read by the narrator. I found myself listening well beyond what I had time for some days. The story is provocative with several emotional peaks. The character is identifiable. Growing with her is a personal journey. Rich symbolism and unusual descriptions leave the listener satisfied. I haven't removed it from my portable device yet thinking that I may listen to it again.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

The Idea of this Book was Better than the Reality

I had read The Rose of Sevastopol by McMahon and while I thought it moved too slowly and the end was very anti-climactic, it was still an interesting book. Good story, fascinating insight into the Crimean War and a bunch of what turned out to be very factual information about the formation of early battle hospitals. The original MASH unit.

But I have never been able to get through this book and have tried several times since I first bought it. The plot sounded interesting but turned out to be silly, the characters are simpering, simple and unsympathetic. Each time I pick it up determined to finish it, I put it down within an hour. The plot developed so slowly that an hour in, I still had no idea what the book was really about. I have now given myself permission to admit I will never read this book. It would simply be a waste of time. And by committing this to writing in this review, I will not be tempted to pick it up, just one more time.

Learn from my mistake. If you are randomly surfing through Audible, happen on this book
and decide it looks interesting... pay attention ... it is not. Walk away and save yourself.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Cariola
  • Chambersburg, PA USA
  • 01-02-12

18th Century Girl Power

Katharine McMahon spins an intriguing tale of a young woman, sheltered and trained by her father in the natural sciences, who embarks on an education in the art of being human. When she falls for a handsome young visitor, she is sure that the attraction is alchemical, but she soon learns how little she knows of human nature and the world outside of her country home. While the novel does have overtones of historical romance, it seems to me more about Emilie's search for identity and knowledge--life knowledge, not knowledge gained from books and the laboratory. The novel is well written and engaging, and McMahon includes fascinating details of life in the early 18th century.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Talented author and yet

This is obviously a talented writer. She develops her story beautifully. And yet, after all of her work in developing her story, she wraps the book up abruptly and with little of the attention she gave to the rest of the book. My hope is that this author will realize her shortcoming and go on to write the truly wonderful fiction she is capable of.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Kourosh
  • Laguna Niguel, CA, United States
  • 11-21-07

Hauntingly beautiful!

I enjoy reading books with Hero/heroines who are vulnerable but strong--naive but not useless. This book had these elements. I felt I got to know the characters in the book and I didn't get tired of them. It is also very easy to follow and listen to. I recently listened to a book named "the Observations" by Jane Harris--if you enjoyed that book, you will like this book.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Such a wonderful book! Truly.

This author has such a gift for rounding out her characters wonderful qualities and sharp edges so the reader is able to see people thoroughly and why they behave as they do. Everyone has such complex personalities and flaws, including Emily, the main character. The storyline surprised me and didn’t take a predictable route. I look forward to reading/listening to more Katherine McMahon. From what I can tell she’s a very talented writer.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Couldn’t stop listening

A true talent with a rich and deep use of language I was intrigued throughout.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Wish it had more!

The woman is so intelligent yet she somehow doesn't do much in this story and let's things happen around her. I feel her character could have done more.