Review: The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

20th June 2013

pg1*This book was sent to me by the publisher Harper in exchange for an honest review.

Perfume should tell a story – the story of who you are, who you might be, perhaps even of who you fear becoming…all of these things are possible. It’s a very intimate element of a woman, just like her signature or the sound of her voice.

This quote describes Grace Monroe perfectly. A newlywed in 1950s London, Grace isn’t sure she likes the life she signed on for when she married her husband, a man she’s already aware is cheating. Grace really doesn’t even know who she is or what she wants from life. When a letter arrives notifying her of a large inheritance from someone she’s never heard of, she flees to Paris in part to meet the instructions in the will of the enigmatic Madame Eva d’Orsey and in part to escape.

Grace, perhaps in an effort to distract herself, must know more about Eva before she signs for the money and begins to track down information with the help of her attorney. As Grace discovers, Eva was just as cryptic in life as in death, a muse to a legendary perfumer and a fiercely independent woman with a gift for scents. As a famed perfumer describes her:

…people assume that a muse is a creature of perfect beauty, poise and grace. Like the creatures from Greek mythology. They’re wrong. In fact, there should be a marked absence of perfection in a muse – a gaping hole between what she is and what she might be. The ideal muse is a woman whose rough edges and contradictions drive you to fill in the blanks of her character. She is the irritant to your creativity. A remarkable possibility, waiting to be formed.

And learning about Eva’s imperfections and escapades in the 1920s through New York, Monte Carlo, and Paris helps Grace unravel who she is as well. The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro is an interesting historical novel that highlights the women who were misfits, bound by society but unwilling to stay within its limits.

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  • Jennifer Hartling

    I love women like that. Who doesn’t? Push the boundaries ladies! I’ve been a curious girl about this book.

    • Heck yeah! Only way to be.

  • Andi

    This one has been calling to me from my shelves. I have some review commitments stacking up, but I still hope to get to this one sooner rather than later. Like, before summer’s up.

    • I enjoyed it. I’ve read another of Tessaro’s – Elegance – and thought it was pretty good, too.

  • I wish I needed to travel to Paris because some strange woman left me something in her will.

    • You better believe it.

  • Susanne

    This sounds like an interesting story. I’ll have to see if the my library has it!

    • It really was, but of course, I find the making of perfume fascinating anyway.

  • Nishita

    That sounds pretty interesting. I like that quote you highlighted, very intriguing.

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