Author’s Note: While this series deals with reincarnation, please note that I am not advocating those beliefs.
As a Christian, I do not believe in reincarnation. One Bible passage that contradicts reincarnation is:
“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that, to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Romans 9:27-28, NIV)
That stated, I hope you will continue to read more about The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox said, “There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.”
The question in this story is whether Jac L’Etoile will continue to make the same mistakes of her past incarnations or if, by accepting that reincarnation is real, will choose to take a different path than her predecessors did.
Ms. Wilcox would probably like this book. Jac shows enormous personal resolve that manifests as a denial in the legitimacy of her nightmares as past memories. She also displays absolute devotion to finding and protecting her missing brother, Robbie, the current perfumer of the House of L’Etoile.
The inner conflict Jac experiences are the psychotic episodes that manifest themselves as memories Jac has never had; lovers she has never taken and the last, terrifying moments of other women’s deaths. This could in part be inspired by the premature death of her own mother, at the perfumery, the House of L’Etoile, where Jac grew up.
Jac L’Etoile spent years in psychoanalysis learning to interpret and control the dark nightmares that visited her without warning. Her mentor, Dr. Malachi Samuels, helped people like her who may be having episodes of remembering past lives, something Jac doesn’t give any credence to.
Perhaps to distance herself further from Dr. Samuels and the family legends of the business’ origins, Jac has built a life around disproving classic myths (the Minotaur, Shangri-La). She cannot help but be drawn into the business that caused her such painful memories when her brother disappears and is suspected of murder. She will do anything to find him, even accepting the help of her former lover, Griffin North.
On dual paths to the same place are the other story threads of characters who are linked to the House of L’Etoile or to the idea of reincarnation, all drawn to the story’s climatic head at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.
M. J. Rose’s book draws from Ancient Egyptian lore, timeless perfumery techniques (and extensive research), as well as the current political tension between China and Tibet. There is a heavy emphasis on Buddhism and the belief in reincarnation.
Reading Out Of Genre
In 2010-2011, I workshopped an early draft of Borderland, my manuscript in progress. One of the more common feedback comments I received was that it had “great suspense”. What I am learning about suspense stories is that the author must ask questions in the narrative but withhold answers. This creates tension in the book and encourages the reader to keep turning the pages.
Of course, if the author doesn’t actually give answers at some point, then the reader gets frustrated and may eventually give up the book completely. See: Lost (TV series). Does this ring true for any suspense readers out there?
This may seem beyond belief but I think that this book is the first suspense story I’ve ever read before. Unless you count Jurassic Park. Does that count?
The Book of Lost Fragrances is only the second suspense novel I’ve ever read, the first being the techo-thriller Jurassic Park, and that was shortly after its publication in 1990. Does that count as a suspense novel? (I hope so!) I have read a few Elizabeth Peters mysteries between now and then too.
What drew me to reading outside of my normal genres was the unique premise of the book. I love the concept of combining ancient cultures (I majored in Anthropology) with perfumes (one of my favorite things) and debunking folklore.
I loved this book and if you enjoy suspense fiction then I think that you will too.
Bonus Features (found in the book)
The inside cover pages are absolutely lovely if you are a perfume aficionado. One of my dreams growing up was to open a perfumery and I still enjoy mixing my own scents at those boutique shops. Admittedly, sometimes they turn out ghastly (note: don’t mix florals with bubblegum). It’s a learning process.
The other wonderful feature in this book is the glossary that Rose provides in the back. This section has information on Rose’s research in the fragrance industry and includes lots of photographs, background on Ancient Egypt and Greece, and even Rose’s methods of delving into her character’s psyches.
This is the first time I’ve seen a fiction author apply this feature to a book and I found it marvelous!
The author is also really descriptive in writing about perfumes in the book. There is a heavy emphasis on scent and how it triggers memory and Rose is gifted in pairing scents and descriptions. While reading, I sometimes felt like I could almost smell the essences she described.
Do you have any favorite scents? What do they remind you of when you smell them? Grab a cuppa and let’s chat about it!