Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Book of Lost Fragrances - M. J. Rose (Reincarnationist #4)

Meet Jac.  She sees dead people.  Well, actually only one dead person, and that's her mother.  But she DOES have vivid hallucinations, an ex-flame from a younger time, and a little brother who's obsessed with finding a perfume that can help people remember their past lives.  The brother, Robbie, wants Jac to help him, because apparently she has the finest nose there is and will be able to identify the perfume's elusive ingredients better than anyone else.  Robbie wants to find the perfume in order to give it to the Dalai Lama, to help his cause by proving reincarnation.  How this will help is never actually explained.

So, there is a lot going on in this book.  There is the story with Robbie, Jac, and Griffin trying to find the perfume.  There is a story line about the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama and the constant struggle in Tibet.  There is a story line about members of the Chinese Triad in Paris.  There is a story set during the French Revolution, and one set during Cleopatra's time in Egypt.  The two "old" storylines, of the Revolution and Egypt, are kind of necessary to a book about reincarnation, but they probably didn't have to be as explicit.  I think more "hinting" would have been better, letting me make up my own mind about whether all of the reincarnation stuff was bullshit or not.  As it was, I felt like it was being shoved down my throat.  The story line with the Dalai and Panchen Lamas probably could have been eliminated entirely; the "purpose" for the perfume could have, instead, been shifted to restoring the memories of Jac and Robbie's father, who has Alzheimer's.  That would have freed up the Tibet storyline for another book.

Also, the blatant political message for a free Tibet was kind of annoying.  I am aware of the terrible situation Tibet is in, but I didn't want it shoved down my throat in a book that was focused more on Paris and Egypt.  Like I said before, I think it would have been best to separate that story and put it in a separate book of its own, where it could have more attention and be more fully explored.

That said, this was an enjoyable, fast read.  It's one of those books that has many short chapters instead of a few long ones, which makes it easy to pick up and put down without losing the thread of the story entirely.  It also has a glossary of Rose's research in the back, in case you feel like learning a little more about some of the topics (i.e. making perfume) that are featured in the book.  I liked the characters, for the most part, though they were all kind of obnoxious in that there wasn't any real character growth until the very end.  I'm also not sure what was up with Jac's mother's ghost, because if the pretense of the book revolves around reincarnation, shouldn't she have been reincarnated rather than just floating around and talking to Jac...?  I also did not like the ending.  It seemed like a cop-out instead of dealing with more complicated issues the characters had.  But still, a light, fast read.  Also, though this is the fourth book in a series, you do not have to read the others to understand this.  I picked it up without knowing it was part of a series, and it all made sense to me, though now I can see where it might have been referencing some of the earlier books.  But still, it stands alone as a narrative and won't leave you hopelessly confused.

2 stars out of 5.

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