06 Apr The Perfumist of Paris by Alka Joshi
Scents, secrets, and the importance of self-belief define this stunningly good story
Having read and reviewed the first two books in this trilogy, I’m so pleased to have been invited on this blogtour to continue to share my love for this enthralling story of two sisters, Lakshmi and Radha.
The first two books immersed us in the busy city of Jaipur and the tranquil highlands of Shimla. In a complete change of scene, this third book – which can be read stand-alone – takes us to Paris in 1974 where Radha, a young Indian woman, has settled with French husband Pierre, and lives in a central Paris apartment with him and their two daughters, Shanti and Asha.
She has also found her vocation in life, working for master perfumer Delphine at the House of Yves. But Pierre is not altogether happy with a career wife, and her mother-in-law Florence is disapproving. Only her close friend Mathilde, and her sister Lakshmi at home in India, give her the encouragement she needs.
Nevertheless, her life is on an even keel, and she is happy in her work and in her marriage.
Her past is about to come back to haunt her …
But on a work trip back to India to research scents for an exciting new project she is working on, Radha discovers her past is about to come back to haunt her.
Niki, the son she gave up for adoption when she was just fourteen, has run away from his family to Paris to find her.
How will she explain to Pierre, Florence and Mathilde the secret she has kept all these years? More importantly, how will she explain to Niki why she gave him up?
Her whole personal life is about to be turned upside down, and meanwhile, she must keep her career on track in the face of sabotage from a jealous colleague.
The emotional side of the story pulls you in
What an enthralling read!
Radha’s new career as a perfumist would have been enough to carry this story – it’s fascinating to read about all the work that goes into creating a new scent, and how and where perfumists look for their inspiration. Radha’s work in the lab and her research in India evoke scents and sensibility in the reader!
But of course it’s the emotional side of the story that really pulls you in, as Radha struggles to find resolution in her personal life.
There are such strong themes here, including guilt and forgiveness – of others, and for oneself.
There’s also the theme of motherhood. While the first two books in this series concentrated on the sibling bond between Lakshmi and Radha, this one explores maternal love, through Radha’s relationship with Niki and her daughters, through Florence’s relationship with Pierre, and through Mathilde’s relationship with her frail, failing mother.
Radha and Lakshmi’s late mother comes to life, too, in the scents of her that Radha recalls, almost involuntarily.
Finally there’s the theme of woman’s strength and liberation, in an era when women were only just gaining independence (a thread which mirrors the first book, set when India was discovering her independence from British rule). Olympia, the woman in a Manet portrait who is the muse for a new scent Radha is working on, becomes a metaphor for all the forgotten and powerless women on the world.
Will she empower Radha to find the courage to choose her own path in life in her face of her husband and mother-in-law’s disapproval?
A beautiful and atmospheric story
Radha’s struggle to be true to herself is wrapped up in a beautiful and atmospheric story that takes the readers to exotic places to meet fascinating people whose love for each other and their fellow beings make each and every one of them truly empathetic.
Most can be encountered in previous books, and their stories are continued, but Radha is the main focus of this book, and is a truly worthy heroine, as strong and brave as she was when as an eleven-year-old, she escaped her small village to find her sister in Jaipur.
(As an aside, don’t be put off by the list of characters at the beginning of the book. It made me feel a little faint, and I’ve read the first two books! You don’t need to know or memorise them – the story tells itself without the need for any more explanation than is already woven into the narrative.)
The Perfumist of Paris by Alka Joshi is available now in hardback, ebook and audio
About the Author
Alka Joshi is a graduate of Stanford University and received her MFA from the California College of the Arts. She has worked as an advertising copywriter, a marketing consultant and an illustrator. Alka was born in India, in the state of Rajasthan. Her family moved to the USA when she was nine, and she now lives on California’s Monterey Peninsula with her husband and two misbehaving pups.
Thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me on this blogtour and to publishers Mira/Harper360 for the copy of the book.
Catch up with the rest of the blogtour at the links on the poster