Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"The Perfume Collector" by Kathleen Tessaro

Although this book isn't entirely set in Paris, France and/or England, I think it qualifies for the Travel the World in Books Challenge because the vast majority of it does.

I was searching for a historical fiction book in my piles to read and came across this one. Despite its length, the synopsis sounded intriguing enough (along with the pretty cover) that I picked it up.

The first thing I noticed about this book once I began reading it was that the pages flew by swiftly. Maybe it's due to the mysterious plot, but despite areas of reminiscence and chunks of description did nothing to slow this book's progress. It's rare that I devour a 400+ page historical fiction in a few days, and yet with this book it was possible.

The Plot:
Grace Munroe receives notice of an inheritance bequeathed to her- the only problem? She has never heard of or met the stranger before, the stranger whose name is Eva d'Orsey. Traveling to Paris without her husband, Grace meets with the lawyers in charge of the bequeathal, but refuses to disband Eva's estate before she learns who she is, and how she knew Grace. Will Eva d'Orsey's secrets be revealed, or go with her to the grave?

The best part of this book was its characters and setting. I've always sought to find books that give me a feel of an era or a city (in this case, Paris) and I think The Perfume Collector really makes you feel (and smell) like you're in Paris circa 1955. Grace is immensely relatable because of her imperfect relationships and her slightly outsider-ish status. This book also provides flashbacks into Eva's life, and although I didn't exactly relate to her, I feel like she is one of the more real characters in the book. The things she suffers and the choices she makes build on her personality as she ages into the woman she was before she died.

One of the aspects in this book that made it easy (as pie) to guess the plot was one of the character's traits. I won't say more about it, but I can't imagine many people went the entire book without having some clue as to why Eva would leave everything to Grace, as the plotline of this book isn't hard to come by, even in general fiction.

The Perfume Collector is the book I'd sell alongside perfumes. Although it isn't really a love story, it's deeply romantic and makes you wish you were in Paris in 1955. If you want a surprisingly fast-paced historical set in vintage Paris for your next read, I'd strongly suggest The Perfume Collector.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for an excellent set of characters in a not-so-remarkable plot.

Content: Ages 16+ for brief sexual content (and insinuations), and lots of perfume descriptions.

Page Count: 464 pages

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