Review: The Perfume Collector

The Perfume Collector: A Novel by Kathleen Tessaro
Harper (May 14, 2013)

Description (from Kathleen Tessaro‘s website)

A secret history of scent, memory and desire … from the Sunday Times bestselling author of Elegance and The Debutante.

London,1955: Grace Monroe is a very fortunate young woman. In spite of a sheltered upbringing in Oxford, her recent marriage has thrust her into the heart of London’s most refined and ambitious social circles, where alliances are formed and reputations made. However, playing the role of the sophisticated socialite her husband would like her to be doesn’t come naturally to her – and perhaps never will.

Then one evening, a letter arrives from a law firm in Paris. Grace has received an unanticipated inheritance. Only her benefactor, Frenchwoman Eva d’Orsey, is a complete stranger to her. Grace dismisses it as a mistake. However, when later that same night, she suddenly suspects her husband of infidelity, her world is thrown into chaos.

Fleeing London for Paris, Grace searching for information about the mysterious Eva d’Orsey. What she uncovers is the remarkable history of an unconventional woman who inspired one of Paris’s greatest perfumers. Only Eva’s past and Grace’s future intersect. And soon Grace must chose between the life she thinks she ought to live or becoming the person she truly is.

Told in three distinctive perfumes, the story weaves through the decades, from 1920’s New York to Monte Carlo, Paris and London; revealing the complex, obsessive love between muse and artist and the tremendous power of memory and scent.

My Review – 4 Stars


The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro starts out slowly, but picks up steam as the plot thickens. It opens with Eva d’Orsey in the Winter of 1954, near the end of her life.  In the Spring of 1955 Grace Monroe receives a letter notifying her she is the chief beneficiary in Eva’s will.  Grace has absolutely no idea who Eva was.  She wont accept her inheritance until she finds out more.

The author, Kathleen Tessaro, paints a somber picture of Eva’s life.  One theme in this story is about social expectations of women.  Both Eva and Grace go against the grain in this regard.  Learning about Eva offers Grace a brighter outlook for her own life.  While jarring at times, I enjoyed the unexpected plot twists in The Perfume Collector.  Also, having a recent heightened interest in perfume myself, I enjoyed the romanticism surrounding perfumes.

Note: The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro is the August Book Club Selection for She Reads.  Go to Shereads.org to find links to additional reviews.

5 comments

  1. Yay, I’m so glad to hear it was good. I had this on reserve at the library – a digital version – but I requested the wrong format. 😦 Now, I have to re-request, lol.

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