Set in Edinburgh, 1869. Rebecca is newly married to a pharmacist, Alexander Palmer, who has just opened his own pharmacy to great fanfare. Rebecca thinks that she has been ‘saved’ by Alexander as her father died and she was left destitute. She expects to be living the life of a pampered gentlewoman but her husband is not all he appears to be. Rebecca discovers that Alexander has strange sexual fantasies that only one woman can satisfy – and that woman is not Rebecca.
The story follows Rebecca as she tries to make a life with her husband and he in turn tries to pacify her so-called hysteria with a magical new chemical invention. The creation which is being called a wonder drug is heroin. The chemical creation makes Rebecca live more and more in her head and she pines for her lost love. Meanwhile, Alexander is quite detached from his wife and keeps very clinical notes on her deterioration. The pharmacist’s desire for money and fame from his invention leads him down dark and murky roads.
It’s a great read and fascinating to realise how much we have developed in the medical field. (Bayer first marketed heroin as a sedative for coughs!)