Book review: The Memory of Scent by Lisa Burkitt
This is not the sort of HF I would normally read. My wife suggested I try it in an effort to broaden my mind a bit and after some initial protests (e.g. “there are no swords on the cover!”) I decided to give it a go, and I have to say I am glad I did.
Bohemian Paris in the 1880s with its cafes, salons and the social milieu around the impressionist movement provides the backdrop for the novel. Lisa Burkitt manages to evoke the period admirably. There is plenty of historical detail. The reader is brought into the conversations of the likes of Degas, Renoir, Monet and Toulouse Lautrec, smells the scents of artist’s studios and explores the finer side of cuisine in the company of a gourmand.
Beginning as a murder mystery, the book follows the fortunes of two models, Fleur and Babette whose lives are changed dramatically when the artist they pose for is murdered. Fleur knows Babette only by the smell of patchouli she leaves behind in the artist’s room and becomes fixated on finding her. Themes such as the relationship between men and women, poverty, art and mental illness are explored as the narrative shifts between the initially elegant Babette and her descent into prison and prostitution while Fleur moves through the world of impressionist art and music. It’s probably not giving away too much to mention that the narrative device of the unreliable narrator is used with great success.
The book is many layered and full of intrigue and secrets. It shows both the glamour and the poverty of the Bohemian lifestyle. I enjoyed it and it certainly did make a change from battles and gladiators.
The Memory of Scent is published by The History Press Ireland. This review was of the Kindle Edition.