About this book: Set against the backdrop of Paris in 1883, this is the story of two French women, Fleur and Babette, and how their lives diverge when the artist they both model for is found dead. Fleur’s is a life lived on the fringes of the Impressionist movement in a world of color and music. Babette is not so lucky, and following the death of the artist, her life begins to quickly unravel on the streets of France. This is a novel of the senses in which memory, love, and loss are explored and examined, and where it appears the ties which hold us together can also pull us apart.
About the author: Lisa Burkitt was a print journalist before moving into broadcast journalism. She has produced and presented radio documentaries and a current affairs/arts panel show on local radio. Lisa was also a weekly columnist with the Johnson Press group. She is anthologized in Best Paris Stories, which was launched in the American Library in Paris on the 29th May. The Memory of Scent is her debut novel. Born in the USA to Irish immigrant parents, she grew up in Co. Donegal, Ireland.
Would I read this book, judged on its cover alone? It doesn’t do much to attract me, though now that I’ve read it, the cover seems quite appropriate.
If this book were a movie, I would rate it: PG-13 (except for one briefly described sexual encounter that drifts toward R)
Reminds me of… The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro
You’ll want to buy this book if … you enjoy darkly twisty, gritty historical fiction, especially that with a European setting.
Why did I read this book? For The History Press Ireland for review
Would I read another by this author? I liked her style. Would be interested to see her treatment of other characters in another European, historical setting.
My take: My initial interest in The Memory of Scent was to gain a peek into the less glamorous underbelly of Paris in the late 1800’s. What I then found was a darkly evocative novel–sometimes eerie, always richly textured and finely imagined. Author Lisa Burkitt possesses an impressively confident prose, every word carefully selected. Though the narrative is not spare, it’s not embellished either. The result is crisp, clean language that despite its weighty tone is a pleasure to read.
What might seem, sometimes, to be a rather disjointed narrative is held together by its clever theme: scents. This is also one of those rare novels that becomes more intriguing after you turn the last page and are able to look back on the entire story. Coming to the end, I flipped again to the first page to re-read it from my new vantage point, realizing afresh how perfect its beginning.
The fragrance of this haunting story lingers still in my memory and is not one I’ll likely soon forget.
Thanks to Trafalgar Square Publishing (for Independent Publishers Group) on behalf of The History Press Ireland for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.
End Notes: Though I gravitate toward contemporary fiction, I do enjoy picking up a well-researched histfic every now and again so that I might be educated as well as entertained. That’s also the reason I watch almost every series Masterpiece Theatre produces (a joy that has recently multiplied for me as my daughter now loves them too), and why our family loves to travel. Beats dusty, dry history books, don’t you think?