Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Kathleen Tessaro Shares World of Fragrance in Delightful Drama of Family Secrets Out May 16th!

Small perfume distillery on display at the Fra...
Small perfume distillery on display at the Fragonard perfume factory in Èze, France. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Grace Munroe woke up with a start, gasping for breath.
She’d been running, stumbling, over uneven ground,
in a thick, dense forest; searching, calling out. But the
harder she ran the more impenetrable the woodland
became. Vines grew, twisting beneath her feet, branches
whipped against her face, arms and legs. And there was
the panicky feeling that time was running out. She was
chasing someone or something. But it was always just
ahead, out of reach. Suddenly she lost her footing, tumbling head over heels into a deep, rocky ravine...

Grace pressed her fingertips against the cold glass of
the window. This was not, as her husband Roger put
it, their real house. He had more ambitious plans for
something grander, closer to Belgravia. But Grace liked it 
here; being in the centre of Bloomsbury, close to London 

University and King’s College, it reminded her of Oxford, 
where she’d lived with her uncle until

 only a few years 

The Perfume Collector

By Kathleen Tessaro

I was happy to find a historical plus technical look at how perfume is made in the latest novel by Kathleen Tessaro! Of course, I'd never be able to apply that new knowledge since I don't have the "nose" for it, but it was fascinating to learn how and what goes into creating new scents! Certainly not what I, as a naive individual who appreciates smelling beautiful, would have thought...

Now, many cannot wear perfume due to allergies of family or professional connections. But I enjoyed my favorites when I was younger. The interesting thing about one of the perfumers in this story was his belief that nobody should wear scents also used by others! While it makes perfect sense and is an ideal for us to imagine, it obviously would be impossible to carry out. Traditionally I wear a lighter perfume in the spring and heavier in the winter...but of course I would love to have a "signature" perfume, wouldn't you?

Grace Munroe, newly married, beautiful, and...bored...She would love to have a job, even was thinking about taking some courses in secretarial studies. But when she talked about it to her friend Mallory, she quickly pointed out that she already had a job, as a wife. Grace knew that was exactly what her husband would say, if he were back from his latest business trip...

So when she got a letter from a law firm in France, she was totally caught off guard that somebody called Eva d'Orsey had left her an inheritance and she was being asked to come to France! Perhaps she realized that was exactly what she needed--to get away--and she left with nobody's permission but her own...

Paris, Winter 1954

Eva d’Orsey sat at the kitchen table, listening to the ticking
clock, a copy of Le Figaro in front of her. This was the
sound of time, moving away from her.,,

Exhaling, Eva stubbed the Gitanes cigarette out in the
ashtray. They were common – too strong. Unladylike. But
that suited her. She could only taste strong flavours now.
Cheap chocolate, coarse pâté, black coffee. What she ate
didn’t matter anyway; she had no appetite left.

There was something naïve, sweetly arrogant about the
doctor’s assumption that everyone wanted to live forever.
Picking up a pen, she traced a ring of even circles along
the border of the newspaper.

There were still a few more details to be arranged.
She’d been to the lawyer weeks ago, a diligent, rather aloof
young man. And she’d left the box with the sour-faced
concierge, Madame Assange, for safe keeping. But last
night, when she couldn’t sleep, another idea occurred to
her. There was the passage, from London to Paris. The
idea of an aeroplane intrigued her. It was extravagant and
unnecessary. But there were a few things a person should
experience in life; air travel was definitely one of them...

No. She would run a bath. Dress. And go to 7.30 Mass at Eglise de la Madeleine. Of all the churches in Paris, this was her favourite. There, Mary Magdalene, that wayward, difficult daughter of the Church, ascended regally into heaven on the arms of angels all day, every 

Mass was like grand opera, a magic show with the most 
expensive props in town. And faith, a sleight of hand trick, 
in which one was both the magician and the audience; the 
deceiver and the deceived. Still, who could resist a good 
magic trick?


Monsieur Tissot had been assigned to work on Grace's case since he was fluent in English. But no matter how many times she told him that there must be some mistake, he would reiterate that this was all verified. She had inherited an apartment and stocks. He continued that the apartment was to be sold and she would get the money... Again, Grace tried to explain that she couldn't accept any of this...

But then she grabbed onto the statement about property...and demanded to see it! Tissot again explained that it was to be sold, according to the will. Grace's question led to his response "...that's precisely what she intended. My understanding was that she wanted you to have financial independence. Le droit de choisir was how she put it. The right to choose... He then presented her with a picture and her address in London, as well as her birth date... She couldn't listen to anymore!

English: Perfume urn in the Caron shop in Pari...
English: Perfume urn in the Caron
shop in Paris, France.
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Imagine what you would do if you learned that your entire life was based upon lies? Would you simply accept the strange inheritance? That's what the lawyer expected--as everybody else he'd ever worked with had... But Grace Monroe was not like other people. Perhaps because she was unsure of her present life, perhaps not, but Grace was not going to just sign those papers...

And she started by visiting the apartment... and then she learned about the shop and visited there, where there were still thousands of bottles of "absolutes" (the essence)  and "accords" (a blend)... and then she met a former perfumer who had known the woman, Eva...

The key issue for me was the ending...Does it move into a sequel!? I hope so! Otherwise, readers will want to know what happened in Grace Monroe's life based upon her discoveries. The book is beautifully done, moving from Grace's investigation back into the life of Eva, who had started in service in a large home, only to be soon enticed into traveling with a professional gambler! The drama is high, sometimes dangerous, but always there is an underlying story of a young girl who had her baby taken away from her and given to someone else...

This literary novel takes readers back to the 20s and 50s of the last century with references to the devastating results of the war and how it affected those who did anything to ensure they had food... It is sophisticated in the telling, but heartbreaking in the reality! Learn about the world of perfumes, how they can be used to bring back memories that may make you happy...and sometimes even afraid! Truly a memorable story! Highly recommended for many reasons!


Kathleen Tessaro is the author of Elegance, Innocence, The Flirt, and The DebutanteBorn in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Kathleen attended the University of Pittsburgh before entering the drama program of Carnegie Mellon University. In the middle of her sophomore year, she went to study in London for three months and stayed for the next twenty-three years. She began writing at the suggestion of a friend and was an early member of the Wimpole Street Writer’s Workshop. Her debut novel, Elegance, became a bestseller in hardback and paperback. All of Kathleen's novels including Innocence, The Flirt, The Debutante, and most recently, The Perfume Collector have been translated into many languages and sold all over the world. She returned to Pittsburgh in 2009, where she now lives with her husband and son.

Check out Unsolicited Advice! on her Website
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