Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Perfume Collector - Kathleen Tessaro

The Perfume Collector
The Perfume Collector is perfume in the form of written word.  That sounds cheesy, but it's true.  It's a novel of discovery, starting out misleadingly simple and gaining more complexity and subtly as it goes on. It's like perfume; the longer you wear it, the more complex it becomes as it mingles with your skin, taking on you in addition to its own ingredients.

This is a novel written around two different women, Eva and Grace, in two different times.  Eva's timeline is earlier, ranging from 1927 to 1954, while Grace's timeline is steady in 1955.  Eva's first appearance is as a jaded woman who is dying and trying to straighten out the remainder of her affairs, and from then on we get to see her in her younger days, as a teenager and then a young woman.  Grace is a woman living in London with a marriage that is, if not failing, then certainly not as happy as it can be.  She receives word that Eva left her an inheritance, even though they've never met, and sets out to discover more about the mysterious woman who left her a fortune.  The characters definitely mature throughout the story, and it's just as obvious with Grace as it is with Eva.

There are some awkward point of view shifts in this book, not between Eva and Grace, but between them and other, supporting characters.  There are no page or chapter breaks for these shifts, and the narrative, which is mostly written with a single-person perspective, seems to lurch uncomfortably as we switch to the mind of another character.  The narrative itself is, as I said before, deceptively simple.  I felt that I knew the "big reveal" for most of the book, because it wasn't really that much of a secret or a surprise.  The hints were abundant.  But when the "reveal" came, there was so much more to it that hadn't been hinted at.  It added a delightful dimension to the story, and I found myself enjoying the latter bit of it quite a bit more than the beginning.  I was also extremely pleased with the end, because if it had ended any differently, the whole point of Eva's will would have been...well, not in vain, but I don't think it would have had such a beautiful conclusion.

Overall, and excellent read.

4 stars out of 5.

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