“A letter turns newly-married Grace Munroe’s life upside down, and she begins a journey which leads Grace through the streets of Paris and into the seductive world of perfumers and their muses. An abandoned perfume shop on the Left Bank will lead her to unravel the heartbreaking story of her mysterious benefactor, an extraordinary woman who bewitched high society in 1920s New York and Paris.”
I’m a huge fan of Kathleen Tessaro. I loved Elegance, and Innocence is one of my favourite novels. So it was with high hopes that I started The Perfume Collector. The story takes a little while to build up pace, but we’re soon flung into the world of Grace Munroe, an unfulfilled and restless newlywed who suspects that her husband is having an affair. But all thoughts of infidelity are pushed to one side when she receives a letter from a law firm in Paris that names her as the sole beneficiary of the recently deceased Madame Eva d’Orsey’s estate – a women Grace has never heard of.
Unsure of taking money from the sale of a stranger’s house, Grace flies to Paris to find out more about the mysterious Madame d’Orsey. Eduarde Tissot, from the law firm handling Eva’s will, accompanies her on her quest. In her search to uncover Eva’s identity, Grace beings to find hers too, and missing pieces from her past start falling into place.
The grandiose house that Eva has left behind does not portray an accurate representation of her life. We are taken back in time, to 1927, and see 14-year-old Eva start work in a luxurious hotel. Timid and anxious, she is wary of the colourful guests of the hotel, whose rooms she must clean. Three of the most prominent are Mr Lambert – “A communist!”, her fellow employee Sis claims, the glamorous ‘entertainer’ Kay Waverley, and Madame Zed, a world-renowned perfumer who always travels with her apprentice, Andre Valmont. Little does Eva know, as she meets them in turn, that these four people will end up changing her life. When Grace Munroe discovers the relationships between Eva and these people, she stumbles on the biggest secret of all.
Intricately and delicately woven, The Perfume Collector is an exquisitely beautiful and flawless read. Sometimes a book from an author you’ve previously loved can be a disappointment, but Kathleen’s latest literary offering more than exceeds the expectations I had when I started reading it. It’s a sensuous, evocative novel that will have you searching for your own signature scent.
Many thanks to HarperCollins for the review copy.