The Perfume Collector: A Novel

The Perfume Collector: A Novel

4.3 250
by Kathleen Tessaro

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A remarkable novel about secrets, desire, memory, passion, and possibility.

Newlywed Grace Monroe doesn’t fit anyone’s expectations of a successful 1950s London socialite, least of all her own. When she receives an unexpected inheritance from a complete stranger, Madame Eva d’Orsey, Grace is drawn to uncover the identity of her mysterious

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A remarkable novel about secrets, desire, memory, passion, and possibility.

Newlywed Grace Monroe doesn’t fit anyone’s expectations of a successful 1950s London socialite, least of all her own. When she receives an unexpected inheritance from a complete stranger, Madame Eva d’Orsey, Grace is drawn to uncover the identity of her mysterious benefactor.

Weaving through the decades, from 1920s New York to Monte Carlo, Paris, and London, the story Grace uncovers is that of an extraordinary women who inspired one of Paris’s greatest perfumers. Immortalized in three evocative perfumes, Eva d’Orsey’s history will transform Grace’s life forever, forcing her to choose between the woman she is expected to be and the person she really is.

The Perfume Collector explores the complex and obsessive love between muse and artist, and the tremendous power of memory and scent.

Editorial Reviews

USA Today on Elegance
“Through vivid descriptions, lively mishaps and devastating details, Tessaro serves up a witty, original, fast-moving debut.”
Glamour on Elegance
“Witty…proves that confidence never goes out of fashion.”
Kate Alcott
The Perfume Collector is a crackling, beautifully paced story that weaves the world of fragrance into the lives of two vibrant women in a way few have experienced. Inhale deeply—a new way of telling a story of the heart.”
“A bewitching, compelling novel, full of dark desires, long-buried secrets, revisited memories, and new opportunities.”
Romantic Times
“Beautiful imagery and prose are the strong points of this seductive story that paints the most bewitching picture imaginable of perfume creation and the muses who inspire it. The themes are brilliant . . . and likely to leave readers feeling awestruck by the end of this classy and unforgettable novel.”
Good Housekeeping
“Fragrance, fashion, and a puzzling bequest lead a 1950s British socialite into a whirl of Parisian intrigue in Kathleen Tessaro’s The Perfume Collector.”
Woman and Home (UK)
“A mesmerising novel of passion and scent.”
Glamour (UK)
“This evocative novel spins you back a few decades to the 20s and 50s where a young bride suppresses her intellect to be the trophy wife her husband desires. She is devasted when he is unfaithful but could it be the making of her?”
NY Daily News
“A lovely tale of a young woman in London who receives a mysterious inheritance that brings her to Paris and eventually to an old perfume shop. . . . Sigh.”
Publishers Weekly
Tessaro (Innocence) dazzles the senses in this novel about a reluctant British socialite who receives a mysterious inheritance from an unknown Frenchwoman in 1950s Europe. Tessaro’s flashback-layered narrative concerns the mildly clichéd Grace Munroe, a London housewife yearning for a sense of purpose, and Eva d’Orsey, an older Frenchwoman “living between memory and regret.” After Eva dies, Grace is surprised to receive a letter naming her as chief beneficiary. Upon arriving in Paris she meets Edouard Tissot, Eva’s lawyer and, predictably, a potential love interest. Searching for her connection to Eva, Grace discovers a derelict perfume shop staffed by Russian-born master perfumer Madame Zed, who weaves a preachy morality tale about the downfall of young orphaned Eva in New York City a quarter-century before. As Eva’s history surfaces, Grace finds the value in her inheritance and the price Eva paid to bestow it. Predictably, Tessaro cycles between narratives, but brings the cities to life, from the “dreamy, shifting blues and dusky greens” of a London “Turner watercolour” morning to the “glowing softness” of Paris. Nuanced observations soften the blow of the contrived banter, familiar form, and one particularly overindulgent shopping-day passage. Agent: Jennifer Joel, ICM. (May)
Glamouron Elegance
"Witty…proves that confidence never goes out of fashion."
Library Journal
Englishwoman Grace Monroe travels to Paris in search of answers as well as escape from her unhappy marriage after receiving a bequest from the mysterious Eva d'Orsey, a woman she has never heard of. The novel's chapters alternate between Grace's Paris sojourn in 1955 and Eva's story, which begins with a job in a New York City hotel in 1927, at the age of 14. Tessaro (The Debutante) has written an entertaining novel with two protagonists readers will care about, and if the answer to why Eva has left her fortune to Grace is fairly obvious early on, it doesn't matter. VERDICT A compelling plot in a truly magical Parisian setting, fascinating information about the way perfume is made, and great secondary characters make this a charming read. Tessaro does a marvelous job of conveying the atmosphere of a fairytale trip to 1950s Paris by a woman who finds herself, and romance, in the City of Light. Readers of the works of Emily Giffin and Laura Florand will enjoy.—Elizabeth Mellett, Brookline P.L., MA
Kirkus Reviews
The story of a woman who receives an unexpected inheritance, from Pennsylvania-based author Tessaro (Innocence, 2005, etc.). Grace Munroe, a young woman in London in 1955, receives a letter from Paris informing her that a woman she has never heard of has just died and left her an apartment and an investment portfolio. Believing it must be a mistake, she flies to Paris to investigate this strange inheritance. The story then moves back in time and across the ocean to New York in the 1920s, and they are definitely roaring. Moving from continent to continent and decade to decade, the author reveals the sometimes-tragic, sometimes-exhilarating life journey of Eva D'Orsey. A brilliantly gifted orphan, Eva is catapulted by circumstances into womanhood at a young age. Her journey involves following two men she met while working with the housekeeping staff of a high-end New York hotel. One of these men is himself an orphan and the protégé of an older Russian woman, Madame Zed, who teaches him the art and science of creating perfumes. Andre opens a perfume store in Paris while Eva is in Monte Carlo, counting cards for the rebellious son of an aristocratic English family. Before long, Eva joins Andre at the perfumery in Paris, but then the Nazis take over, and Andre, a Jew, is carted off to a concentration camp despite Eva's attempt to save him. Eva's story, told from her perspective, is interspersed with her story as told by Madame Zed to Grace Munroe, who has followed a clue to the old perfume shop. A colorful, stimulating journey through time.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

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