There are some titles that instantly resonate with you – for me, this was one of them. As flirty and intriguing as its name suggests, Tessaro’s latest work is delicately written, with her usual elegant turn of phrase. I devoured it in a day – it’s an easy read, but a satisfying one.
The reason why the title struck a cord (an accord rather?) with me is because I’m a perfume collector myself. Since I was small, I’ve been buying miniature scent bottles, admittedly less for the scent and more for the exquisitely shaped vials. I remember being five and lying on the floor in my grandparent’s room in their house in Zim, and playing with my gran’s glass bottle collection. I’d line them up in order of favour, and then proceed to savour the way they glinted in the morning sun, making rainbows on the carpet. I believe that’s when the obsession started.
So the title drew me in. The story is about Grace, who inherits a fortune from a woman she’s never met right at the time when she’s experiencing a minor crisis of self. Rejecting what’s expected of her, and her cheating sniveling farce of a husband to boot, Grace flees to Paris, to discover the reasoning of the woman behind the will. Thus, she commences a journey to understand the intricacies of Eva D’Orsey’s life, which leads her to a small perfumery steeped in scent, secrets and glamorous decrepitude. She encounters the mysterious Madam Zed who begins to enlighten her regarding Eva’s life, through the three perfumes that Eva left behind. A sorrowful, sweet story emerges, layered in seduction and sacrifice. Through it, Grace begins to find herself, and for the first time realises elle a des choix – she has choices.
I enjoy the way Kathleen Tessaro writes – I loved Elegance, and I loved this too. It’s not intellectually demanding; it’s reading for the pure pleasure of escapism and the love of moving story. Pair it with Opium by Yves St Laurent, and the realisation that you have choices too.