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This is a book worth listening to. Based in the France of the first world war, it explores the changing role of women in a society undergoing major upheaval.
Fleurette, born a twin, and gifted with exceptional abilities to detect and analyse perfume, responds to traditional social demands and adapts to the need to support the war effort. It is a novel that is rich in fascinating detail and has historical integrity. Swirling throughout are intense passions and sensuality.
The reader. Because this is written in the first person, the narrator has the opportunity to become the protagonist. This Madeleine Leslay achieves. Her voice matches Fleurette’s age. Her acting is controlled and voice changes for dialogues are unpretentious and work very well. Adding to the sense that she has become Fleurette, her phrasing is often unexpected and suggests spontaneity and a lack of self consciousness.
Although Leslay gives voice to the passion in this novel, she doesn’t transform it into the melodrama that McIntosh edges towards, especially in the last third of the book which becomes more rushed and improbable
The intricacies of perfume making were well researched. These details carried the saga of a woman that I didn’t particularly like or was interested in. But maybe my reaction is a testament as to how effectively this book reflects the self conscious social responsibilities of the wealthy that Fleurette morphs into self imposed martyrdom and unlikely speedy recoveries from peronal trauma and tragic losses.