Book Review: The Perfume Collector

perfumecollectorGrace Munroe’s marriage was in trouble long before she learned of her husband’s affair. So, it’s not surprising that she acted quickly after receiving an unexpected letter, informing her that she had received an inheritance from a complete stranger.

Several days later, she boarded an airplane and took her first trip to Paris, determined to uncover the identity of Madame Eva d’Orsey, her mysterious benefactor. Grace discovers that her inheritance is a substantial one, consisting of proceeds from the sale of a property and a portfolio of stocks. And even more surprising, considering the period, Eva d’Orsey wanted Grace to be financially independent and have le droit de choisir (the right to choose).

Alternating between the two women and skillfully weaving through the decades (late 1920s to mid 1950s), author Kathleen Tessaro guides us on two amazing journeys of self-discovery, from New York to Monte Carlo to Paris and finally London.

The book is appropriately enititled, The Perfume Collector. Tessaro has beautifully described the three distinctive perfumes inspired by Eva and the complex relationship that exists between muse and artist.

One of my favorite descriptions…“His perfume highlighted her youthful freshness and yet blended naturally with her rich, musky undertones. It ‘finished’ her, gave her a polished elegance, joining the fractured sides of her together. It was astonishing how she added so much to his composition; how the very fact of her fuelled his imagination.”

Later, I was fascinated by the creative process and how easily Eva described it to a child: “It’s called enfleurage. We will gently extract the perfume oil from the blooms by pressing them into the tallow. Then we can make it into a pomade.”

If you are a fan of historical or women’s fiction, add this book to your summer reading list.


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