Title: The Perfume Collector
Author: Kathleen Tessaro
No. of Pages: 464
Genre: Historical Fiction
Origins: Harper Books
Release Date: 14 May 2013
Bottom Line: Beautiful, highly evocative story
“Newlywed Grace Monroe doesn’t fit anyone’s expectations of a successful 1950s London socialite, least of all her own. When she receives an unexpected inheritance from a complete stranger, Madame Eva d’Orsey, Grace is drawn to uncover the identity of her mysterious benefactor.
Weaving through the decades, from 1920s New York to Monte Carlo, Paris, and London, the story Grace uncovers is that of an extraordinary women who inspired one of Paris’s greatest perfumers. Immortalized in three evocative perfumes, Eva d’Orsey’s history will transform Grace’s life forever, forcing her to choose between the woman she is expected to be and the person she really is.”
Thoughts: Flipping back and forth between Grace and Eva, The Perfume Collector explores identity and how perceptions are not always reality. As Grace rushes to resolve the mystery of her unknown benefactor, the final truth, once revealed, is nothing she expects to find. At the same time, the woman Grace discovers herself to be is in no way similar to the meek, awkward thing to which readers are first introduced. It is a most satisfactory example of character growth, just as it is a wonderfully fluid story that quietly but completely immerses a reader into its depths.
Much of the novel explores the hedonistic lifestyle of the rich and famous in the 1920s and, to some extent of the 1950s. While Eva is only on the fringes of this society, it is all too easy to imagine how seductive a lifestyle it really was thanks to Ms. Tessaro’s exacting prose. The juxtaposition between what she sees as she cleans the hotel rooms and what she knows and hears from her morally upright roommate only serves to heighten the allure of one over the other. A reader cannot help but make further comparisons between Eva’s 1920s socialite lifestyle to the one Grace inhabits. While the ongoing war recovery subdues the fervor to some extent, there remains the same appetite for pleasure, for gossip, and for scandal that exists in Eva’s youth. It provides for an intriguing contrast between characters and their milieus.
The historical elements of The Perfume Collector are superb but even they place second against the fascinating information about the perfume industry. Ms. Tessaro’s descriptions of scent are highly evocative, while her explanations of the complex process of creating perfumes is absolutely stunning. One finishes the novel with a heightened appreciation for the beauty in all natural aroma and a desire to find that one uniquely individual scent which is as much as one’s identity as appearance.
The Perfume Collector is as carefully layered as the most delicate of fragrances. Ms. Tessaro builds her story using a mixture of beautifully depicted settings, luscious characters, and the most vibrant of descriptions. With shifts between time and character clearly distinguished, the story flows smoothly between past and present, adding complexity and intrigue with each change. The result is a novel that entices all of the senses and entrances with its tale of love, heart break, and personal growth.
Ohhhhh we shared many of the same notions about this book. First and foremost Tessaro’s writing was wonderful. I always love a historical novel and this did not disappoint.
I’ve read enough poorly written historical novels to be wary. The Perfume Collector could have gone either way, depending on the writing and the characters. I thought Ms. Tessaro did a fantastic job educating readers about the industry and providing hypnotic characters that were pure joy to read.
I agree completely about the great character growth. It was definitely one of my favorite parts of the book 🙂 If you enjoyed the info on the perfume industry, I’d highly recommend The Perfect Scent. It was a really enjoyable non-fiction read about the process of making perfumes and I thought it paired very well with this book.
I used to work in the natural ingredients industry, and we provided quite a few of our products for fragrances and aromas. I found it such an amazing business on how the chemicals were made and how they were used to create these gorgeous scents.
Wow, that sounds like a very interesting job! I really liked reading about the exotic ingredients used in the book I mentioned, so I think it’s would be amazing to work on that side of things.
I loved working for that company. I worked there for 8 years, and it tore me apart to have to leave it (job was eliminated after we were acquired by another company).
I have seen a few reviews of this and every one just confirms the fact that I need to read it. Must get on that…
It really is a wonderful read. I was transported to the world of perfume and fragrance.
I’m still dying to read this. It kind of reminds me of “Perfume, story of a murderer”. The industry really is fascinating!
It is. I used to work on the fringes of the fragrance industry and never got tired of how the strangest ingredients could be blended to create the most luscious scents. The story is excellent from that aspect, but I really enjoyed the characters and the writing as well!
Can’t wait to read it!
You are going to love it!!
I couldn’t agree more. You say all that I want to, and you say it much better 🙂