The Perfume Collector

Written by Kathleen Tessaro
Review by Hanne Pearce

It is a decade after the end of the Second World War, and Grace Munroe is trying to fit in to the role of being a wife, which in the Fifties meant being witty, charming and an excellent hostess. Despite her sincere efforts, Grace finds that she is floundering in a London social scene that mystifies her, saddened by her husband’s elusiveness after their attempts to have children have failed. As she contemplates how to move ahead with her life, she receives surprising news from Paris that she has inherited money from a complete stranger named Eva D’Orsey. Believing this inheritance to be a mistake, she travels to Paris to settle the matter, only to discover there has been no mistake and that she is the sole beneficiary of a great deal of money. To justify the gift, Grace finds herself searching to understand her mysterious benefactor’s motives. As she begins to piece together the life of Eva D’Orsey, Grace comes to learn that she and this stranger may be intimately connected – putting into question everything she has ever known about herself.

Kathleen Tessaro has created a truly enticing and story with The Perfume Collector. Her writing style is delicately balanced between well-written dialogue and artful description that does not leave the reader wanting for action. With a story heavily ingrained in the sense of smell, a less adept writer might have been overly descriptive when attempting to convey the scents that are so central to the tale. On the contrary, the perfumes of Eva’s and Grace’s world rise up from the page almost magically into the reader’s imagination. Intermingled between Grace’s detective work, we relive Eva’s life, seeing the truths play out through the eyes of two very different generations. This book is a refreshing read that combines a bit of mystery, love, nostalgia and self-discovery.