Monday, May 20, 2013

The Book of Lost Fragrances

Book Review

The Book of Lost Fragrances by M. J. Rose.

I saw this book come up as a more recent release. 

It's about time I read something new. For a change.

Well, fairly new. This book came out only last year. That's very new compared to most of the other things I've been reading lately.

And then I cracked the front cover. 

Mysticism. Reincarnation. Egyptian myths. Tibetan struggles. 

This was certainly beginning to look like something outside of my normal reading genres.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. It's just that I got a certain impression from the front cover, which reads, "a novel of suspense".

Suspense and mysticism? In the same book? I guess it is possible, but that is not a connection I would have anticipated before opening the cover.

Yes, I may be a skeptic, but I'm also sufficiently curious. It was time to find out how all these ideas could come together under one cover.

The Book of Lost Fragrances

This is the story of a family of perfumers, or rather, what is left of the family, and how they come to tie together family legend with historical myths with political maneuvering with business tactics. The family perfume business is in trouble and one protagonist is plagued with hallucinations and fears, while the other is driven by belief in myths. Together, they must find a way to save the business and survive to see tomorrow.

Sounds suspenseful.

The Triad and Dalai Lama both figure prominently in the story. Paris and its catacombs figure prominently. Cleopatra and Egyptian history figure prominently. Myths and reincarnation figure prominently.

What doesn't figure prominently is actual suspense.

The story jumps between different eras, different continents, different minds, different lives, different past histories.

Jumping around, this book does much.

Suspense? I guess. But I guess I had to be told about it. I didn't feel it. With each chapter relating a different time and often a different person, actual suspense between characters doesn't really flow. 

Within a chapter, between characters within a chapter? Sure. There's some suspense.

Between chapters, between characters? Not so much. Suspense is not the first thing that occurs to me.

But what this story lacks in actual suspense, it makes up for in actual research. Our author has done her homework.

Almost to a fault.

The streets and landmarks of Paris are detailed more than what is necessary for the progression of the story.  The exception to this is the treatment of the Paris catacombs beneath the city. This is well done and appropriate for the story. The Egyptian history is well researched and is in just the right amount. We are also given the right amount of background regarding the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan struggle with Chinese government.

The research is good. And seems complete.

But what about the various storylines woven into all that research?

The end of the book seems to come rather abruptly and it left me wondering what happens next.

Does the old boyfriend go back to his wife or divorce her? Does the business crumble or it is saved, possibly with a somewhat diminished product line? Does our protagonist gain control of her hallucinations or go mad? Does the lost fragrance ever get remade?

I'll never know. And this makes me wonder. I don't like wondering at the end of books. And it doesn't seem that there will be a sequel.

I guess I'll never know and I'll have to be accepting of that.

But this is an interesting read, bringing together all these various themes. Maybe it is a bit much, but interesting nonetheless.

It is nice to step out of the ordinary occasionally.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome your thoughtful comments.