Books & Literature

Book Review: The French Perfumer, by Amanda Hampson

A civil servant with an ordinary life takes a job in the South of France, setting off on an adventure that will change her life forever.

Before you pick this book up, get comfortable. I was going to read a couple of chapters and five hours later had completed the whole thing. A delightful story, complete with intrigue, romance, deception and mystery!

The French Perfumer has the feel of F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby with intricately woven descriptions of scenes complete with enough detail for the reader to vividly sense the emotions and scents described.

Iris Turner is a civil servant who seems to have a very ordinary life until a colleague and friend finds an advertisement for an English speaking, secretary in the South of France. She is persuaded to apply for the position and, having won it, sets off on an adventure that will change her life forever.

Even before she arrives in the French Rivera and is driven to the exclusive hotel with its eccentric clientele, she meets a man who will become a friend and confidante as she is thrust into the world of perfumery and the secrets it holds. The man for whom she will work is not what he seems and, until the end, Amanda Hampson continues to divulge snippets of his character that both ingratiate and confound the relationship Iris is trying to develop and maintain in order to follow the instructions given by the powerful and unpredictable Vivian (the woman who has employed her).

Hampson has written the story in a style that combines narrative and journal entry, sliding seamlessly between the two, thus providing an unusual fluid sense of time throughout the novel. Her use of descriptive passages enhances the feeling the reader gets of the scene including the emotions, opulence and colour of not only the setting but the occasions being relived. The characters ebb and flow, gathering momentum or fading into the background as their lives are played out in a fanciful, sometimes dangerous façade afforded to them by their wealth and the boutique living they have chosen.

This is a book that allows you to immerse yourself in the story and finishes in an unexpected way. It has the warmth of loyalty and the chill of greed and deception within its pages and would make an excellent gift for anyone who enjoys a novel that traverses their emotions.

Reviewed by Leanne Caune

Rating out of 10:  9

Released by:  Penguin Australia
Release Date:  February 2017
RRP: $ 29.99 trade paperback; $9.99 eBook

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