Ali's Reviews > The Perfume Collector

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro
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really liked it

I have not read anything by Kathleen Tessaro before so upon receiving this review copy from Harper Collins I honestly had no idea what to expect. The cover art showing an elegantly dressed woman in 1950’s dress is nicely attractive and I found perfectly suited the story that followed.
“Eva d’Orsey sat at the kitchen table, listening to the ticking clock, a copy of Le Figaro in front of her. This was the sound of time, moving away from her.
Taking another drag from a cigarette, she looked out of the window, into the cold misty morning. Paris was waking now, the great dawn, streaked with orange, seeping slowly into a navy sky. She’d been up for hours, since four. Sleep had inched away from her these past years as the pain increased, shooting up along the left side of her body.”
Grace Munroe is an attractive woman in her late twenties; newly married to Roger, the couple move within smart London society of 1955. Grace has a gift for numbers, and finds the rounds of lunches and cocktail parties with which her friend Mallory thinks Grace should be mainly concerned, something of a bore –and longs for something else to do. When Grace receives a letter from a Parisian lawyer asking her to travel to Paris to discuss a bequest from a woman named Eva d’Orsey – a woman Grace has never heard of – she is curious and puzzled. Suspecting that her husband may have betrayed her, an angry Grace travels to Paris alone. Grace finds she is the recipient of a very large fortune, and is determined to find out what she can about the mysterious woman whose property she is now the owner of. Her enquires take her to boarded up perfume shop on the Left Bank, where she runs in to an old woman, a woman who once knew Eva very well.
“She took down one of the vials from the shelf. Jasmin de la Mer, the label said. Opening it, she sniffed the cork. Its contents had long since evaporated, leaving a slightly grainy amber residue at the bottom of the bottle. But there was a ghost of the intensely white bloom, undercut by a coolness, an almost metallic airiness, slicing through the depth and lushness that lingered still.”
Grace and Eva’s stories are told in alternative chapters, Eva’s story taking us to New York in the late 1920’s and then back to Paris and Monte Carlo, it is the story of perfume, its creation and the obsession of its creators. Grace’s stay in 1950’s Paris, her gradual unravelling of the truth of her (frankly blatantly obvious) connection with Eva and her struggle to come to terms with what is happening to her marriage, are told with the help of the three perfumes that immortalise Eva’s history.
“The Grand Casino at Monte Carlo was a triumph of elaborate Bell Epoque design, a golden canopy of gleaming gilt and elaborate flourishes. In the evening under its vast domed ceiling, all of Monte Carlo society could be observed, including one delightful, wayward young woman and her tragically debauched English guardian.
Valmont watched from a remote seat at the bar as Eva worked her charms.”

Eva’s story is enormously compelling – from a New York hotel to the casinos of Monte Carlo – her associations with the gambler Lord Lambert and the perfumer Madam Zed and her apprentice Andre, Eva is a revealed as a passionate, resourceful woman, deeply caring, her life revolving round her one great obsession, her story is a sad one. I loved Eva’s story, and found myself trying desperately to stay up late to read more of it – I was pretty sure I knew where the story was going, and I think there will be few surprises for readers of this novel, yet it still a wholly satisfying and readable novel – despite the predictable aspects of it. At well over 400 pages this novel looks longer than it feels, a fairly light and uncomplicated novel – The Perfume Collector is likely to be very popular and widely read – and I am pleased to have been introduced to an author I hadn’t encountered before.
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Reading Progress

April 22, 2013 – Started Reading
April 22, 2013 – Shelved
April 26, 2013 –
page 441
95.04% "Hope I get home early enough tonight to finish it in bed : )"
April 26, 2013 – Finished Reading

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