The Book of Lost Fragrances

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.

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7 thoughts on “The Book of Lost Fragrances

  1. I just started reading this yesterday, it does sound promising, though perhaps more plot driven than my usual read, I think I am drawn by the locations and historical interest, but seems a lot to cover from France to Egypt to Tibet. Will see.

    • I hope I didn’t put you off with my ramblings. As I said I so wanted to love it, but didn’t quite. I’m anxious to see what you think of it when you finish.

      • Not at all, if anything I’m even more curious to know how it is and now there is the added mystery of what was missing for you, I have an inkling it may be to do with depth of character, as it is usually through characters that we experience emotion, which is what appears to be missing, but its a little early for me to speculate yet.

        A wonderful premise anyway and this morning I see even the Pope has commissioned his own special blend, hints of lime tree, verbena and grass, aligned with his ‘love of nature’ so it is said. I concoct personal blends myself, so always interested in this subject.

      • I think for me, the fact that she didn’t have enough room to do justice to all aspects of this interesting story left me wanting. You are correct when you say that this probably has something to do with giving more depth to each character. I also didn’t much care for the main character Jac and her romantic storyline.
        That’s sounds wonderful that you are a concocter of personal blends! This must make this book very interesting for you! What scents do you like the best?

      • Read more today and definitely finding it a little too narrated, like we are being told the story rather than through the characters, leaving little space for the imagination or interpreation of the reader. I really love a book that inspires the imagination, that alllows me to build up a picture, this feels flat, its lost some of the potential to intrigue by explaining too much.

        I made some blends for Christmas gaving them fun names like ‘Tranquility’, (with oils that calm and pacify) ‘l’Espirit’ for uplifting the spirit ‘Sweet Dreams’ for a few insomniacs I know, but the most popular one was a blend with oils that nourish the creative spirit which I called ‘Wild Woman’ which had Benzoin, Jasmine, Frankincence and Laurel. I’ve been using this one myself, its wonderful and better than any commercial perfume I have.

  2. Pingback: Review & Giveaway: The Book of Lost Fragrances by MJ Rose | Books in the Burbs

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