The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro


For me, a certain smell can vividly bring back a memory–bread baking, the ocean, a drive by the B & M Baked Bean factory when the weather is just right…  Other scents tell a story–incense when I enter a church, smoke on a cool fall afternoon, charcoal on a summer evening… What is most intriguing to me about The Perfume Collector is the way the author uses the reader’s sense of smell to tell the story of Grace and Eva.  There are no perfume inserts or samples, yet I closed the book with my olfactory senses tingling!

London, 1955.  Grace is a well to do but unhappy socialite who receives a letter notifying her of a generous inheritance from Eva…whom she does not know.  With nothing to lose and no one to miss, Grace has a Shirley Valentine moment and travels to Paris to find out more about her inheritance, who Eva was, and what their connection might be.   Paris, 1927.  Eva was orphaned early and works as a hotel maid who always manages to land on her feet, as we get to know her.  She is bright, she is determined, and yet she is often a victim of the company she keeps.   She is a one step forward, two steps back kind of girl, and seems an unlikely benefactor for most of the book.  I enjoyed the mystery that unfolds, the time periods so vividly depicted, the mercy and kindness some characters show, and the last word each woman is able to have. Worth the read!

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