Book Review: The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose

Posted March 6, 2012 by Melissa in Book Review | 11 Comments


Title:  The Book of Lost Fragrances
Author:  M.J. Rose
Reading level:  Adult
Genre:  Suspense/Historical Fiction
Size: Hard Cover, 416 pages
Release Date:  March 13 2012
Publisher: Atria Books
Stand Alone or Series: Reincarnationist #4 (But can be read alone)
Source: Received for review as part of the blog tour

First Line:  “Giles L’Etoile was a master of scent, not a thief.”

Summary (from GoodReads):

A sweeping and suspenseful tale of secrets, intrigue, and lovers separated by time, all connected through the mystical qualities of a perfume created in the days of Cleopatra—and lost for 2,000 years.

Jac L’Etoile has always been haunted by the past, her memories infused with the exotic scents that she grew up surrounded by as the heir to a storied French perfume company. In order to flee the pain of those remembrances—and of her mother’s suicide—she moves to America, leaving the company in the hands of her brother Robbie. But when Robbie hints at an earth-shattering discovery in the family archives and then suddenly goes missing—leaving a dead body in his wake—Jac is plunged into a world she thought she’d left behind.

Back in Paris to investigate her brother’s disappearance, Jac discovers a secret the House of L’Etoile has been hiding since 1799: a scent that unlocks the mysteries of reincarnation. The Book of Lost Fragrances fuses history, passion, and suspense, moving from Cleopatra’s Egypt and the terrors of revolutionary France to Tibet’s battle with China and the glamour of modern-day Paris. Jac’s quest for the ancient perfume someone is willing to kill for becomes the key to understanding her own troubled past.the ancient perfume someone is willing to kill for becomes the key to understanding her own troubled past.

My Favorite Quote:




“Mythology is what we call someone else’s religion.”



A paraphrase of the Joseph Campbell quote: “Myth is what we call other people’s religion.”


My Thoughts:

This book was an amazing journey from present day NYC to 1800’s Paris to Ancient Egypt and back again.  M.J. Rose takes us into the world of reincarnation theory and perfume making spanning continents and millenia.  And what a fascinating journey it is!

I love a book that I can enjoy reading while at the same time learn from and this was one such book…from the history and techniques of perfumary to the evolution of the reincarnation theory to the political unrest in China and Tibet…I learned much more than I expected to and I thoroughly enjoyed the process.  I also loved the religious debates the characters had as well as the Joseph Campbell quotes peppered throughout.  (I love Campbell!)

There are many characters, spanning many time periods, in this novel and most are pretty well fleshed out.  I can’t say that I formed any particularly strong attachments to any…but that didn’t in any way hinder my enjoyment of the story.  I’d also say hat the story moves at a fairly slow pace…constantly building and constantly kept me turning the page to see what would happen next.  The story line did tend to jump around a bit from character to character and from time period to time period which was a little annoying at first but I quickly acclimated to M.J. Rose’s technique and it actually ended up helping to increase the tension, mystery, and suspense of the story.

Lastly, I’ll just say that I loved the whole premise behind the idea of creating a fragrance that not only is powerful enough to evoke memories of this life…but can actually bring back memories of previous lives and perhaps even reconnect soul-mates lost over the centuries. We all know how powerful a scent can be…how it can transport us back in time to a place or a feeling…and how for some people with synesthesis it can actually literally evoke other senses.   The smooth and effortless way that the author blends fact in with fiction will leave you wondering what is real, what isn’t,  and what you actually believe…

Was it worth my Time?

Please check back on Friday, as I’ll have the wonderfully talented M.J. Rose herself here on my blog talking perfume!


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