Thursday, September 12, 2013

Kathleen Tessaro Picks Apart A Secret

The Perfume Collection
All families have secrets. Some more than others. But even though they do, newlywed Grace Monroe doesn't expect her respectable family to really have any worth telling. Given their social status, with her mother linked to a titled linage, her life was drawn out before she lived it.

Never mind that Monroe is as plain as they come. She doesn't fulfill anyone's expectation of a successful socialite in the 1950s. She comes across as more of a plain Jane, someone who knows all the  proper tricks and pleasantries but doesn't necessarily seem convicted about them.

Perhaps that is precisely why Monroe comes across as mysterious as the message she receives from from Paris. She is oddly captivated by uncovering the identity of the woman who left her an inheritance. As far as she is concerned, Madame Eva d'Orsey is a complete stranger, someone who should have no ties to her. And yet, it seems this stranger has willed a small fortune.

The Perfume Collector is a story of identity and memory, family and the familiar. 

Giving the reader a glimpse into the story of Monroe as she attempts to uncover the identity of her benefactor in the 1950s and the story of Madame Eva d'Orsey in the 1920s, Kathleen Tessaro is able to craft a novel that is one part mystery and one part coming of age in Paris. As the story progresses, both women come closer and closer to revealing how their lives are impossibly connected.

Paris in the 1920sAs Monroe uncovers small fragments from her benefactor's life, Tessaro transports readers to 1920s New York, Monte Carlo, Paris, and London as an ordinary hotel maid is transformed into an extraordinary woman who inspired one of Paris’s greatest perfumiers. And it is these perfumes, specifically three evocative perfumes, that are used as chronicle benchmarks that capture d'Orsey at three different times in her life.

While it is easy to connect the dots within the story, the real mystery here is decipering how it might have all happened. For instance, it is richly entertaining to be introduced to d'Orsey as a naive and newly hired maid at a famous hotel in Paris, knowing that she will somehow have the good fortune to earn enough for an inheritance despite being on the doorstep of another world war.

At the same time, the story that evolves from Monroe's persistence isn't necessarily a success story. It is a story of love and lost love, risks and regrets, success as an outcome of sacrifice. And as Monroe digs deeper into the life of  d'Orsey, she will eventually find her own changed in ways she could have never imagined.

A few graphs about author Kathleen Tessaro. 

Kathleen Tessaro
Although Tessaro was born in Pittsburgh, she was given the opportunity to study in London for three months after her sophomore year of college at Mellon University. As a student, she never looked back.

She lived there for the next 23 years, attempting to make ends meet as an actress. It wasn't until much later that she began writing at the suggestion of a friend who was an early member of the Wimpole Street Writer's Workshop.

Using nothing more than a second-hand book for structure, she wrote her debut novel, Elegance. It's the story of a frumpy, depressed woman is reborn as an assertive diva.

The Perfume Collector is also a story about transformation, but with significantly more depth and in surprisingly different ways as one woman becomes trapped by social status and another is set free from it. It is beautifully written, capturing the trappings of class across three decades.

The Perfume Collector By Kathleen Tessaro Breaths 8.4 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

While the book isn't meant to be suspenseful, it manages to mesmerize with a well-wrought plot while giving a glimpse of perfuming before brands set a more pedestrian standard. Both artistic and raw, The Perfume Collector builds perfectly on what has become an astonishingly brilliant career.

The Perfume Collector: A Novel by Kathleen Tessaro can be purchased on Amazon. You can also find the book at Barnes & Noble or download it for iBooks.

Interestingly enough, Tessaro never wanted to be a writer. She wanted to be a choreographer or an art historian. She especially enjoyed working with young opera singers, teaching them acting skills. She didn't come into writing until her early thirties.
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