The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro is the She Reads selection for August and it is a wonderful mix of historical fiction and storytelling. It takes us back through time to the 1920’s and the 1950’s and into the lives of two women who are tied together through time. The Perfume Collector is a beautiful story of deeply buried secrets, desires, passion, and the power of fragrance.
Taking place in the 1950’s we find Grace, a London socialite, who is trapped in a loveless marriage and a life she really doesn’t think she fits into. Grace is an intelligent woman but that isn’t what her husband is looking for. He wants only a wife with a good background who looks goods on his arm and is an asset to his career ambitions. When she receives a substantial inheritance from a woman called Madame Eva d’Orsey she is bewildered. This woman is a complete stranger and yet has left her enough money so that she will be financially stable in her life and able to do whatever she wants. Just who is this woman and how does she know Grace? Grace can’t just take the money and move on – first she must unravel the mystery of who this woman is. She can never imagine that the answers to her questions will be found in an old perfume shop in Paris and that they will forever change her life and how she sees herself.
The 1920’s introduce us to Eva d’Orsey who we first meet as a young girl working in a hotel. It is there that Eva will meet a man who becomes one of Paris’s greatest perfumers and she his muse. Eva’s life is very different from Grace’s privileged upbringing. Things never came easy for Eva and she had to fight for everything she had but the question still remains as to why she’s left all this money for Grace and why is it so important to Eva that Grace have financial independence?
I liked both Eva and Grace. Both were easy to like and as a reader you find yourself sympathizing with them both. By far though my favorite part of the story is the information on fragrances and how they are made as this has long been a fascination of mine. This was a very enjoyable novel and I would recommend it in a heartbeat! I’ll leave you with a favorite passage of mine from the novel…
‘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.’ (taken from eBook copy)
Source: My own personal copy. No compensation was received and all thoughts are my own.