20 in 2014: Book Three

The Perfume CollectorThe Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

London, 1955: Grace Monroe has just realized with the utmost clarity that her marriage, her life, her story is rife with glaring flaws. It is then that she receives a mysterious letter from France detailing an inheritance left to her by a woman she’s never met: Eva d’Orsey. Grace boards a plane to France that would thrust her into a chapter of her life forever changing her, and her life’s story.

As she uncovers the mystery that is Eva d’Orsey she finds herself at a crossroads where the complete truth could alter the world as she sees it, yet leaving with unanswered questions would be impossible. Why would this complete stranger leave her an inheritance worth more than Grace could ever imagine? There must be a mistake. But there isn’t.

Eva d’Orsey, orphaned at a young age and briefly raised by her uncle, was forced to figure life out completely on her own. Her classroom, the streets. Her family, the enigmatic characters of a local French hotel where she was brought as a child to work as a chambermaid. It is within the hallways of this hotel that Eva is raised, and eventually broken.

The demands of each hotel guest ranged from the mundane: extra towels, extra soap, to the extraordinary. One particular guest challenges Eva to the point of a near breakdown, requiring complete darkness and having a peculiar aversion to scents. Cleaning scents. Through this struggle, Eva discovers a knack for mixing her own cleaning solutions and a talent for creating scents. She had no way of knowing she was dealing with the eccentric demands of one the greatest perfumers in the world: Madame Zed.

Perfumes. Scents. A world where differing notes spoke greater volumes than words. A person’s choice of perfume told a story all its own and left a subtle footprint on the memory of those left in its trace. It is a scent that sparks a memory, a connection, that would profoundly change Grace. And answer questions she may have rather left unanswered.

“You see, nothing is more immediate, more complete than the sense of smell. In an instant, it has the power to transport you. Your olfactory sense connects not to the memory itself, but to the emotion you felt when that memory was made. To recreate a scent memory is one of the most challenging, eloquent pursuits possible. It’s poetry, in its most immediate form.”

Much like the fragrant tiers and notes within a bottle of perfume, Tesssaro’s novel is gifted to the reader in beautifully wrapped layers that unfold seamlessly. The connections, tragedies, and triumphs weave together to make a story that you’ll remember long after you finish reading the last word on the page. A beautiful story. An extraordinary book. A favorite read of 2014.

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One Comment on “20 in 2014: Book Three”

  1. JoAnn says:

    Love your book reviews. I’ve been trying to read more. Really really REALLY trying. Dunno if we have the same taste though! haha. :) Still a fan of your blog, even though I have a hard time visiting as often as I should! Boo on the death of Google Reader! hugs to you. Need a craft day on our summer 2014 bucket lists… but we say that every year, don’t we? :)


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