Monday, March 10, 2014

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro - TLC Book Review

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; Reprint edition (February 4, 2014)

Source? the publisher via TLC Book Tours
FTC Disclosure - The publisher provided me with a complimentary copy of The Perfume Collector in exchange for an honest review.  The review below and the opinions therein are my own and offered without bias.

I was reminded of? Under the Tuscan Sun

What Now? Now, I think I shall have to go to Paris :)
In the meantime, I'd love to read some of Tessaro's other books.  She is definitely a writer I will come back to.

Golden Lines

'...What would you like to do with it?' he pressed.
Grace thought for a moment.  'Live,  Monsieur Tissot.  I'd like to live in great comfort.  And peace.'  And then she added, quite to her surprise, 'With no one to tell me what to do or how to do it.' (80)

As soon as she entered, the smell of perfume hit her.  Not flowery or whimsical but sophisticated, strong.  Like a hand reaching out across the impossible distance to pierce the veil that separated them, it pressed hard against her solar plexus, stopping her in her tracks.  (97)

'There is nothing more difficult than simplicity,' Madame added, turning her back on them. 'And therefore, nothing more refined.' (143)

'One cannot underestimate the importance of a train being on time.  Or leave to chance the space between the plane and the bomb.' (161)

'I don't know why,' she confessed, 'but I've always loved the smell of rain.' (178)

Madame considered a moment. 'What if knowing more meant that your life would change?' (222)

His muse possessed him, saturated him the way water soaks into a flimsy cloth until the fabric is more liquid than solid. (327)

And she'd smelled of something familiar, something so natural, so elemental that for ever afterwards and for reasons she could never quite place, Grace would associate the sudden drop in temperature, the darkening of the sky and the low growl of thunder, with peace and comfort. (386)

Madame Zed passed her the final vial.  Choses Perdus, she said.  'It means "Lost things". This is the accord Eva was obsessed with - the heart of the fragrance Hiver can't reproduce.' (427)

'What matters now, all that matters now, is what Grace Munroe chooses to do next.' (456)

Summary from Amazon

A remarkable novel about secrets, desire, memory, passion, and possibility.
Newlywed Grace Monroe doesn’t fit anyone’s expectations of a successful 1950s London socialite, least of all her own. When she receives an unexpected inheritance from a complete stranger, Madame Eva d’Orsey, Grace is drawn to uncover the identity of her mysterious benefactor.
Weaving through the decades, from 1920s New York to Monte Carlo, Paris, and London, the story Grace uncovers is that of an extraordinary women who inspired one of Paris’s greatest perfumers. Immortalized in three evocative perfumes, Eva d’Orsey’s history will transform Grace’s life forever, forcing her to choose between the woman she is expected to be and the person she really is.
The Perfume Collector explores the complex and obsessive love between muse and artist, and the tremendous power of memory and scent.

What I Liked

Eva d'Orsey - She's a flawed scrapper and a survivor...and that's most definitely my favorite kind of female protagonist.

Madame Zed - Even though her world didn't last and she harvested some pretty strong hurt against both Valmont and Eva, she didn't let it devour her in the end and decided to turn that around into something good for Grace.

Valmont and Lambert - both men who played integral roles in Eva's life.  They were both flawed, of course, and while certainly not perfect characters, I do think neither of them had any intention of hurting her.  They were more her equals and saw in her a young woman with intellectual gifts that needed to be refined...of course, not always for good...but they were surviving.

I'm a fan of the past/present narrative...but I've seen it done well and not so well.  I usually am drawn more to one than the other, but Tessaro made me want to know both stories equally, and I think it's because the threads that hold the stories together are so intricately sewn.  I never felt like I was switching perspectives...The Perfume Collector just reads like one story...not two that eventually come together in the end.

What I Didn't Like

Roger - even before Tessaro gave me a really good reason to dislike him, I disliked him.  What an ass.

Miss Waverley - I have no nice words at all for this woman...I guess someone could say Miss Waverley taught Eva survival tactics and gave her a great gift in the process, but she also lied, manipulated, offered Eva up as a sacrifice, and then left her for dead. That's evil in my book...Eva was just a kid.  I dislike her more than Roger.

Overall Recommendation

I'm in a little bit of a reading slump right now...I can't seem to find books that hold my attention very well, so I'm having to be very selective with what I pick up.  By the time I arrived at pg. 80 of The Perfume Collector when Grace told Monsieur Tissot that she wanted to live in peace with no one telling her what to do (see Golden Line #1 above), I was hooked and didn't put the book down until I was finished.
Best of all, I'm re-energized to read the next book on my list!!!
Gotta love an author who can pull you out of a slump!

The Author

Other Stops on the Tour

Tuesday, February 11th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Wednesday, February 12th: The Blog of Lit Wits
Thursday, February 13th: Read. Write. Repeat
Tuesday, February 18th: A Bookish Affair
Thursday, February 20th: Sidewalk Shoes
Monday, February 24th: Ageless Pages Reviews
Tuesday, February 25th: Bibliotica
Wednesday, February 26th: Walking With Nora
Thursday, February 27th: Kritters Ramblings


  1. Patti, I'm glad you enjoyed this, and that your reading mojo is back. Terrific review!

  2. I can see why you put that "live in peace" line as one of your Golden Lines. I love it!

    Thanks for being on the tour!