Author: Kathleen Tessaro
Type of book: 1920s-1950s, inheritance, death, mystery, secrets, perfume, scent, genius, muse, beautiful quotes, London, Paris, discovery, friendship, gray area, adult
Year it was published: 2013
An inheritance from a mysterious stranger . . .
An abandoned perfume shop on the Left Bank of Paris . . .
And three exquisite perfumes that hold a memory . . . and a secret
London, 1955: Grace Monroe is a fortunate young woman. Despite her sheltered upbringing in Oxford, her recent marriage has thrust her into the heart of London's most refined and ambitious social circles. However, playing the role of the sophisticated socialite her husband would like her to be doesn't come easily to her—and perhaps never will.
Then one evening a letter arrives from France that will change everything. Grace has received an inheritance. There's only one problem: she has never heard of her benefactor, the mysterious Eva d'Orsey.
So begins a journey that takes Grace to Paris in search of Eva. There, in a long-abandoned perfume shop on the Left Bank, she discovers the seductive world of perfumers and their muses, and a surprising, complex love story. Told by invoking the three distinctive perfumes she inspired, Eva d'Orsey's story weaves through the decades, from 1920s New York to Monte Carlo, Paris, and London.
But these three perfumes hold secrets. And as Eva's past and Grace's future intersect, Grace realizes she must choose between the life she thinks she should live and the person she is truly meant to be.
Illuminating the lives and challenging times of two fascinating women, The Perfume Collector weaves a haunting, imaginative, and beautifully written tale filled with passion and possibility, heartbreak and hope.
The main characters would be Grace Monroe, Eva d'Orsey, Andre Valmont, Madame Zed and Lambert. Grace Monroe is a wealthy woman who begins to suspect that her husband is cheating on her. She also receives a telegram that a woman she has never met before gives her everything. In beginning she tends to be conventional and I get the sense that she has to hide who she truly is for fear of not being liked or appreciated. Eva d'Orsey is a woman who passed away who seems to be multi-talented in patterns, numbers, cards as well as perfume. She also does whatever she can to those who depend on her such as Valmont and Lambert. Andre Valmont is Jewish as well as a genius with perfumes who lacks social skills. (Its odd that if his family is from Prussia, why does he have a French sounding last name?) He is also very arrogant and takes pride in his position. Madame Zed is a Russian woman that descends from aristocracy. She is a master perfumer and is best described as like an opal stone (Opal changes colors all the time just like she.) She cares a great deal for appearances. Lambert taught Eva cards and is thought to be dangerous because he's a Communist.
Take chances and don't be afraid.
The book is written in third person narrative from Grace's and Eva's points of views. Both of the stories are very evocative and intriguing, making me want to know more and more about the characters. Most of the times in historical fiction, especially when there is time shifting involved, one of the stories suffers, while another soars, but in this one, both soar high in the sky and had me hooked with their plots and characters. There does seem changing points of view without warning, but I was too engrossed in the characters and quotes to let it bother. I'm amazed that the transition tended to be smooth and wasn't complicated or annoying.
About Kathleen Tessaro
Kathleen Tessaro is the author of Elegance, Innocence, The Flirt, and The Debutante. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband and son.
What a strange and incredibly beautiful novel. There is something speechless about it, something that I can't express in words, no matter how hard I want to try. When reading it, I felt part of the world of a tale taken to the extreme heights where I fell in love with the characters, their speech, accents and beauty. Its as if I was reading the elegant version of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald I believe. In the book itself there is an ethereal quality, something too perfect for the world. I loved both stories, that of Eva's and that of Grace's, although I would have wanted to know more about Grace after the novel ended. I read some of it to my friend Jennifer who really related to everything written in the novel, such as the wealthy life that Grace lives and she also enjoyed the slight humor in beginning about the Mass. In addition to those qualities, it had the most beautiful and unusual quotes that I ever encountered, some of which I will share. Most of them will make you think and ponder and most are what I never encountered in any novel before. (I have read and reviewed over 500 books by the way...)
"Love was an art, a game teased out and manipulated by skilled players." (Page 98)
"Pretty girls didn't lead independent lives; didn't Eva d'Orsey know that? Their triumphs were measured in the swiftness with which they moved from one pair of waiting arms to another. It was the less fortunate girls-the 'sensible' and 'clever ones-who had to face the world on their own. (When she was young, if the word 'intelligent' was used when describing a girl, it was always a criticism...) (99-100)
"Maybe we need to literally come to our senses, to return to our sense of taste, touch, sight, smell, hearing and find sustenance in them, inspiration. Life is, after all, a sensual experience. Our senses have the power to truly transport us but also to ground us. Make us human." (159)
"' Not everything in this world is black or white, Sis.'
'Sure it is,' Sis eyed her harshly. 'The sooner you figure that out, the easier life goes for you. Good, bad, right, wrong. You wanna live in the grey area, you're gonna find out you don't know your ass from your elbow.' She lifted another pile of sheets. 'And mark my words, grey turns to black pretty damn fast.'" (213)
In addition to these four quotes, there are many others I fell in love and found extremely beautiful which I will hide.
This is for TLC Book Tour
Kathleen’s Tour Stops
Tuesday, February 11th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Wednesday, February 12th: The Blog of Lit Wits
Thursday, February 13th: Read. Write. Repeat
Monday, February 17th: Col Reads
Tuesday, February 18th: A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, February 19th: Peppermint PhD
Thursday, February 20th: Sidewalk Shoes
Monday, February 24th: Ageless Pages Reviews
Tuesday, February 25th: Bibliotica
Wednesday, February 26th: Walking With Nora
Thursday, February 27th: Kritters Ramblings
5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)