Title: The Book of Lost Fragrances
Author: M.J. Rose
Release Date: March 13, 2012
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Historical/Suspense Thriller
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Jac L’Etoile has suffered from psychotic episodes for most of her life. Whether they consist of talking with ghosts or having memories that couldn’t possibly be hers, she has worked hard to control her mind and resist these visions. Now, Jac must deal with a new problem: her family’s perfume company is in jeopardy, and Jac thinks the only solution is to sell two of their signature scents. Her brother, Robbie, disagrees, and the two have not been able to agree on a possible solution. When Jac receives news that her brother Robbie has disappeared, she is bereft. After all, her brother is all she has left in this world. She travels to France, to their family home, for some clue as to what might have happened to him.
While The Book of Lost Fragrances is a standalone novel, it incorporates elements of Rose’s previous Reincarnationist trilogy. Readers new to the author’s work will have no problem diving into this novel, as it was written to stand on its own two feet, yet readers familiar with the author’s previous works will recognize characters and settings, as well as the continuing theme of reincarnation. Therefore, if you are a fan of Rose’s previous trilogy, this novel might feel like the fourth book in a series, giving it a familiar, well-loved feeling from the very first page.
Jac is certainly an interesting character. She has been haunted from a young age by her psychotic episodes, and now that she’s finally come to terms with the difficulties in her past, including her mother’s suicide, she has some semblance of peace. It’s difficult for her, then, when all that is upended by her brother, Robbie, who is searching for Cleopatra’s signature scent, believing it can unlock past life memories. Rose created a contradiction in Jac; she’s so strong, yet so unbelievably fragile. It’s very well done and makes her a very sympathetic character.
The reincarnation is handled well in The Book of Lost Fragrances. Rose incorporates some fascinating details, from Egypt to Tibet, and it’s amazing how well she made the issue relevant through the Dalai Lama storyline. This is the historical/suspense thriller genre at its best: sensual and beautiful, reaching through history to unlock past secrets. Instead of going for cheap thrills or writing gimmicks, like many books in this genre, Rose presents a thoughtful, provocative storyline. It’s not often that a historical thriller could serve as a book club read, yet there is so much to discuss within its pages. It’s really interesting how well all the disparate elements come together to make such a solid, page-turning novel.
The Book of Lost Fragrances is one of those books that has something to offer everyone. You don’t have to believe in reincarnation to appreciate what Rose has done with her novel. It’s also wonderful to see familiar characters from her previous books I’ve enjoyed, yet impressive how Rose managed to make it a standalone book. The writing is beautiful, the storyline is exciting, and the history is well-researched; the book has wonderful depth and complex characters. What more could a reader want from a read?
Other books by M.J. Rose: