Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Review: The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro
May 2013
Format: Hard cover, 464 pages
Source: Publisher/She Reads

An inheritance from a mysterious stranger . . .
An abandoned perfume shop on the Left Bank of Paris . . .
And three exquisite perfumes that hold a memory . . . and a secret

London, 1955: Grace Monroe is a fortunate young woman. Despite her sheltered upbringing in Oxford, her recent marriage has thrust her into the heart of London's most refined and ambitious social circles. However, playing the role of the sophisticated socialite her husband would like her to be doesn't come easily to her—and perhaps never will.

Then one evening a letter arrives from France that will change everything. Grace has received an inheritance. There's only one problem: she has never heard of her benefactor, the mysterious Eva d'Orsey.

So begins a journey that takes Grace to Paris in search of Eva. There, in a long-abandoned perfume shop on the Left Bank, she discovers the seductive world of perfumers and their muses, and a surprising, complex love story. Told by invoking the three distinctive perfumes she inspired, Eva d'Orsey's story weaves through the decades, from 1920s New York to Monte Carlo, Paris, and London.

But these three perfumes hold secrets. And as Eva's past and Grace's future intersect, Grace realizes she must choose between the life she thinks she should live and the person she is truly meant to be.

Illuminating the lives and challenging times of two fascinating women, The Perfume Collector weaves a haunting, imaginative, and beautifully written tale filled with passion and possibility, heartbreak and hope.

My thoughts: As an avid reader, I read for many reasons, but one of my favorite reasons is to read a story in which I end up learning something and without a doubt, The Perfume Collector fits that bill. As this story unfolds we learn about the art of creating perfume and what should go into selecting a perfume to wear - a subject I admit to knowing little about. While this is not the main focus of the book, it does play an interesting part and had me very intrigued.

Take this quote for instance: 

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. It’s a very intimate element of a woman, just like her signature or the sound of her voice. And it conveys feelings and states of being that have no name, no language. Its very ambiguity makes it truer than words because, unlike words, it can’t be manipulated or misunderstood.

I fully admit I am not a fan of heavily scented perfumes and tend to use body splashes as my perfume. I do have a few scents I like to wear, so I don't necessarily wear the same scent every day, but that's it. As I was reading this, though, I could not help but wonder what it would be like to have a special scent created just for me. What would the scent be? Throughout the book, we are given descriptions of certain scents that are created and I found myself wishing that there was a way for us to smell them, especially the three perfumes inspired by Eva.

At it's heart, The Perfume Collector is a tale of one woman's journey to make amends and another woman's journey to find herself. Using the dual-line technique, the story alternates between Grace's story in 1954 and Eva's story from the 1920s until her death. While it's fairly easy to predict what connects these two women, it's the journey that takes place that really enhances the story. There are some mysteries that are slowly revealed, but again, not anything suspenseful. 

Taking us from New York in the 1920s to Paris, Monte Carlo, London - it's easy to get caught up in the life of the characters we are introduced to. Each are interesting and eccentric in their own right and each play a role in the development of the main characters, Grace and Eva. I loved the interactions between Grace and the french lawyer, Monsieur Tissot - the banter between the two of them was sweet.

Between the attractive cover and the beautiful story, The Perfume Collector is definitely a keeper for my book shelves! I will also be checking out Kathleen Tessaro's other books. What makes a book a keeper for you?


The August Book Club Selection from She Reads is The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro
Head over to the She Reads website to read other reviews and related posts.



  1. I'm just starting this book, but your review is so nice. I love the look of your blog. It's s relaxing. Great job.

  2. Sounds like a great book. Like you I don't like a strong perfume. I do have one that I like and use infrequently - usually rushing out the door!

    A book keeper for me , is any one that keeps me engrossed and I want to keep reading it, and yet never want it to end!

  3. Lovely review, Kristin. It sounds as if you enjoyed this story. I adore perfume and use it almost daily--I try not to overdo it! :)

  4. I loved Grace and Tissot too! It made wish the ending had a been a bit different :)

  5. This is the second great review I read of this book. I so want to read it! I also wonder if a perfume was created specifically for me what would it smell like?

  6. Your reviews always have exactly the info I want about a book, so I've just nominated you for the versatile blogger award! If you choose to accept then you need to do the following:
    1. Display the Award Certificate on your blog.
    2. Announce your win with a post. Make sure to post a link back to me as a ‘thank you’ for the nomination.
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    4. Drop them a comment to tip them off after you have linked them in the post.
    5. Post 7 interesting things about yourself.


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