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The Perfume Collector: A Novel Paperback – February 4, 2014
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Grace Monroe, a newlywed raised in the studious world of Oxford and bland English food, is completely uncomfortable with the glamorous parties and socializing her new life demands. When a mysterious French benefactor leaves Grace a surprising sum in her will, she jumps at the chance to leave her overbearing husband and London’s glittering social scene behind. What she finds in Paris, however, changes everything she knew about her past and has the power to change everything about her future. Tessaro combines Grace’s story with that of Eva d’Orsey, muse to one of Paris’ most famous perfumers and possessor of quite a few unusual talents herself. Sliding seamlessly between the 1950s and the 1920s, Tessaro depicts New York, Paris, London, and Monte Carlo with lush, descriptive imagery and admirable authenticity. Grace is a beguiling heroine, uneasy in her current situation yet hesitant to fully uncover the connections she and Eva share. Fans of Anita Shreve and Maeve Binchy will find The Perfume Collector a bewitching, compelling novel, full of dark desires, long-buried secrets, revisited memories, and new opportunities. --Stephanie Turza --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
“The Perfume Collector is a crackling, beautifully paced story that weaves the world of fragrance into the lives of two vibrant women in a way few have experienced. Inhale deeply--a new way of telling a story of the heart.” (Kate Alcott, author of The Dressmaker)
“Fragrance, fashion, and a puzzling bequest lead a 1950s British socialite into a whirl of Parisian intrigue in Kathleen Tessaro’s The Perfume Collector.” (Good Housekeeping)
“A colorful, stimulating journey through time.” (Kirkus)
“A bewitching, compelling novel, full of dark desires, long-buried secrets, revisited memories, and new opportunities.” (Booklist)
“Dazzles the senses.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Beautiful imagery and prose are the strong points of this seductive story that paints the most bewitching picture imaginable of perfume creation and the muses who inspire it. The themes are brilliant . . . and likely to leave readers feeling awestruck by the end of this classy and unforgettable novel.” (Romantic Times)
“A mesmerising novel of passion and scent.” (Woman and Home (UK))
“This evocative novel spins you back a few decades to the 20s and 50s where a young bride suppresses her intellect to be the trophy wife her husband desires. She is devasted when he is unfaithful but could it be the making of her?” (Glamour (UK))
“Through vivid descriptions, lively mishaps and devastating details, Tessaro serves up a witty, original, fast-moving debut.” (USA Today on Elegance)
“Witty…proves that confidence never goes out of fashion.” (Glamour on Elegance)
“A compelling plot in a truly magical Parisian setting, fascinating information about the way perfume is made, and great secondary characters make this a charming read. . . . Readers of the works of Emily Griffin and Laura Florand will enjoy.” (Library Journal)
“A lovely tale of a young woman in London who receives a mysterious inheritance that brings her to Paris and eventually to an old perfume shop. . . . Sigh.” (NY Daily News, The Summer's Best Beach Reads)
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Top customer reviews
Figuring out who this mysterious woman is, and why in the world she has left Grace a luxury apartment and a portfolio of stocks is what blends the two stories together.
Grace's marriage appears to be loveless, she doesn't seem to have confidence or know who she is. So I really liked the slow build up of Grace's power. Being in Paris, experiencing new things, the attentions of the Paris attorney, who appears to like everything about her—all of this was a delight to read.
I loved the detective work to find out who Eva was. The book alternates chapters between Eva's life, mostly in the late 1920's and early 1930's, and Grace in the present (present being 1955 in this book). I thought of Eva's life as the “inside” story, the pearl in the oyster. Eva starts as a maid in an expensive and snooty hotel that caters to the rich, the glamorous, the famous and the infamous. She is not supposed to have any interactions with the guests, but she becomes involved with several of them, and this determines the rest of her life.
Eva discovers she has a talent for math and for card games, and she is eventually taken in by an alcoholic gambler, who both uses her and saves her. Other guests who change Eva's life are Madame Zed, a perfumer, and her protege Valmont. Valmont becomes determined to create a perfume suitable for Eva (he is obsessed with her smell) and in doing so finds that she is gifted with the ability to make iconic and unique scents. He becomes another who both saves and uses Eva.
The themes about the perfumes were fascinating. I feel like I learned about what goes into making a scent, and the different levels and layers and top notes. I loved how there were key perfumes created at different times that became integral parts of the story.
This is one of those books that was so good, whenever I was doing something else I kept thinking about the book, and anticipating when I would get to read more: “I'll work for one more hour then I'll let myself read for a half hour” etc. I have purchased another of the author's books and enjoyed it as well—I'm now buying everything she has written (which is pretty much my highest praise possible for a book!)
This is a great book if you like historical fiction, romance, or mysteries!!
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)