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The Perfume Collector Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Perfume Collector


Grace Munroe receives an inheritance from a woman she does not know so she leaves her home in England to travel to Paris to find answers. It's 1955 and Grace Monroe is living a privileged life in Oxford with her husband, mingling with the upper class socialites. During an evening out at a friends party, she finds evidence that her husband is having an affair with one of her friends. Ever since she found she can't have children, she has suspected her husband of pulling away from her. At the same time a letter arrives and informs her of an inheritance from a Eva d'Orsey, a total stranger. So Grace must go to Paris to sign the papers and find out her this woman was and why she left her estate to her.
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Upon her arrival in Paris she meets the lawyer handling the estate, Monsieur Tissot, young, attractive and very business minded. His job is to get her to sign off on the property to be sold so they can settle the case and give Grace her inheritance which turns out to be quite substantial. But Grace wants to see the apartment and find out who this woman was. She finds out that Eva d'Orsey was the mistress of a very wealthy man and the apartment was given to her by him. She also finds a business card that leads her to a small shop that was a perfumery, also owned by Eva. There she meets an old woman, Madame Zed, that knew Eva and feeds her some information on Eva's past.
It's 1927and Eva, 14, is a maid at a very upscale hotel in New York which entertains famous people. There Eva eventually meets a wealthy man that is a gambler. Eva has a great knack for numbers so he entices her to go with him and travel and help him win. She does go with him but only after she has learned, from another guest (a prostitute), what it takes to entice men and get what you want. Unfortunately, the night she spend with this woman leads to her rape by another guest and an unwanted pregnancy.
After many years with her new life, Eva runs into another young man, Valmont, in Monte Carlo she had met at the old hotel. They had become friends and he and his wealthy 'employer', Madame Zed, had talked with her about how they made perfume and what a special talent it was to have just the 'nose' for it. Eva and Valmont rekindle their friendship and affair and decide to go to Paris to open a perfumery. Eva teaches him how to market himself and his perfumes which eventually leads to the success of his store. But also, leads to a loss of love. WW II also takes much of their new found business away as Valmont is marked as a Jew and eventually is taken away by the Germans where he dies in a concentration camp. Eva, being very resourceful, takes what is left of one of her most secretive perfume formulas and works with the famous Hiver family. There she becomes the Master Hiver's lover.
1955 - Grace is still trying to put the pieces together as to why this woman left her her estate. Madame Zed filled in some of the blanks about Eva's baby which leads Grace to question her own past. She recalls only her life with her parents who died when she was only 8 years old. She remembers a young nanny taking care of her, loving her, holding her, then when her father died of a heart attack, she was gone. Madame Zed tells her it was Eva. After many years trying to find her, she takes the job as a nanny just to be close but when her father died, she was sent away by Grace's powerful grandfather and threatened if she ever returned or made contact with Grace.
Grace is approached by the daughter of the late Hiver and offered a huge price to buy Eva's apartment. She also is given a few small china figurines left to her in a small box. Now Grace is becoming stronger and more determined to keep what is left of Eva's past. Her husband shows up unexpected in Paris and after finding out the extent of the inheritance, tries to make up with Grace. But she will not take him back.
Grace also finds out that Eva had a secret formula for the perfume she was giving to Hiver and no one ever found it. It could be worth millions. But Grace just wants to be happy. She does not go back to Oxford. She decides to keep Eva's apartment and the old perfumery. She accepts the fact that Eva was her biological mother and finds peace with that. And one afternoon as she and her best friend Mallory are going through the apartment and looking over the silly little figurines, Grace finds a small piece of paper rolled up inside one of them. As Grace unrolls it she sees a list of chemical ingredients and measurements.
It's the secret formula. As Grace called it, "the family jewels".
Best part of story, including ending: I liked the suspense and unraveling of the mystery of Eva d'Orsey.

Best scene in story: I liked the scene where Grace is a young girl and we find out what really happened at her home, the truth of her fathers death and the affection she had for her nanny. I feel like we discovered her childhood memory at the same time she did.

Opinion about the main character: I liked that Grace becomes stronger as the truth unfolds of her real mother and her husbands infidelity.

The review of this Book prepared by Kathy Ediss a Level 2 American Robin scholar

Chapter Analysis of The Perfume Collector

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   very sensitive (sigh) Time/era of story    -   1900-1920's Internal struggle/realization?    -   Yes Struggle over    -   search for family/history Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   homemaker Ethnicity/Nationality    -   British

Setting

How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   5 () Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   England/UK    -   France

Writing Style

Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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Kathleen Tessaro Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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