I don’t why, but I am having such a hard time reviewing The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J.Rose. When I finished it a few months back I had the same problem so I didn’t write anything down. I guess I was hoping that a bit of time to mull it over would give me some clearer opinions but it didn’t I’m afraid.
The main thread of the novel is the story of sister and brother, Jac and Robbie L’Etoile. They are the last in a line of family of perfumers from the fictional House of L’Etoile of Paris. Jac was born with a natural gift for determining the composition of scent but has turned her back on the company, and her brother, to pursue a life in New York City and to run away from bad memories in Paris, one being her mother’s suicide.
Trying to stave off bankruptcy, Robbie conducts an inventory of his company’s assets and discovers an ancient, exotic scent hidden away and this is when the plot thickens, as they say. He is convinced that this discovery is the answer to their money problems, but he needs Jac’s nose to unravel the scent’s properties. Jac is stubborn and refuses to return to Paris to help her brother, that is, until she gets a call from the police that her brother has disappeared and a dead body has been found at the House of L’Etoile.
Jac returns to Paris to try to find her missing brother and learn more about the mysterious fragrance that her family kept hidden since 1799. Could it be the scent that Cleopatra had developed to aid in reincarnation? or some kind of hallucinogenic? There is a subplot about China and Tibet fighting over reincarnation and a young man named Xie who is a bit of a mystery as well.
It was a book that seemed right up my alley. There is history, mystery and suspense. A lot of territory is covered as well~Cleopatra’s Egypt, China and Tibet and Paris~ all places I’ve enjoyed reading about before, but for some reason the construction of this novel and its disjointedness kept me from fully enjoying it. There were so many story lines going on that I felt like the author was dropping chunks of narrative in odd places just to make it all fit.
The writing itself was wonderfully descriptive and it was obvious the author had done a great deal of research. Even with its problems of construction, I feel like I learned so much about fragrance and reincarnation that I’m glad I read it.