The Alchemist's Daughter by Katharine McMahon Phoenix, HK$96 Katharine McMahon's novel also revolves around pseudo-science, but the focus is on alchemy, not aromatherapy. Written with precision and enhanced by research, the book captures not only the spirit of the Enlightenment but also the mettle of a girl, Emilie, being trained to be an alchemist and a natural philosopher. However, her intelligence, scholarship and devotion to her father don't prepare her for the workings of her heart. In 1725, two strangers disturb the hermetic environment at Buckinghamshire: a plant researcher and a merchant who is the epitome of style over substance. Unfortunately, Emilie chooses the wrong man, and in so doing must leave everything she has ever known for a lonely married life in London. McMahon has created a memorable heroine in Emilie, whose educated upbringing sets her apart in a society buzzing with scientific inquiry, but still constrained by religion and convention. Although she justifies her longing by remembering Homeric teachings, Emilie's rational mind gives her the strength to overcome strictures.