In 1955 London, Grace Monroe inherits a stock portfolio and a flat in Paris from Eva d’Orsey- a woman she has never heard of before. With her husband away on work (and possibly an affair), she goes ahead and flies to Paris to find out what she has inherited, along with who the mysterious d’Orsey is. With the aid of Monsieur Tissot, d’Orsey’s lawyer, she discovers Madame Zed, a former perfume creator fallen on hard times, living above a long deserted and boarded up perfume shop. She proves able to fill in some of what Grace wants to know, starting back in 1927. Slowly, the pieces of the story fall together.
The story bounces back and forth between 1955 and 1927, a duel story of young women growing up. Eva’s story isn’t an easy one; she left home to work at 14 and ended up being taken horrible advantage of; the full extent of what happened doesn’t come out until the end of the book. Grace’s story is a much easier one; she grew up in an insulated, wealthy household and doesn’t know much beyond being a nice girl and a good wife. But learning about Grace, and experiencing Paris, expands her horizons and allows her to become her own woman.
I enjoyed the book; the author’s descriptions of fragrances, fine foods, wines, and buildings were done with gemlike care. The big secret at the end I’d already figured out half way through the book, but that didn’t take away from it. I was really rooting for Grace, but even more so for Eva.
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