Tag Archives | Kathleen Tessaro

Scent and Memory – Guest Post by Kathleen Tessaro

Today’s post by this month’s featured author, Kathleen Tessaro | @KathleenTessaro

Don’t forget that our online book club discussion of THE PERFUME COLLECTOR runs all this week. We’d love you to stop in and share your thoughts on the book!

Kathleen Tessaro

Kathleen Tessaro

Have you ever been stopped in your tracks by a half-forgotten but hauntingly familiar smell? Transported to another time and place by the whiff of a passing stranger’s perfume? Or perhaps been besieged by memories by the sudden contact with a loved one’s favorite fragrance?

Certainly I can recall being thrust into a state of vividly self-conscious pre-teen angst by an unintentional sniff of Love’s Baby Soft or enjoying the same golden inner sheen of optimistic freedom that was the hallmark of my years wearing Chanel’s Christalle.  

However, perhaps the most unsettling experiences come from the scents that other people wore; the eau de toilette of a ex-lover or the lavender soap our recently deceased grandmother favored can often hold unexpectedly vivid feelings.

Our olfactory sense is the most instantaneous and potent link we have with sensory memory. It connects us to our past in the most immediate, emotionally transparent way possible. And it’s this kind of invisible, ephemeral relationship that lies at the heart of my fifth novel, The Perfume Collector.  

In The Perfume Collector, we follow the fortunes of a young newlywed in 1950’s London, who receives an inheritance from a complete stranger in Paris. The stranger turns out to have been the muse to one of France’s greatest perfumers, and as our heroine uncovers more and more about her, their lives become increasingly intertwined.

These women’s stories are told through perfume and even though one of them is gone, what remains is the pure poetic essence she inspired.

Sometimes all we have left to cling to are our fading memories and the diminishing notes of a once radiant perfume. We must inhale deeply, before both evaporate forever.

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The Perfume CollectorA remarkable novel about secrets, desire, memory, passion, and possibility.

Newlywed Grace Monroe doesn’t fit anyone’s expectations of a successful 1950s London socialite, least of all her own. When she receives an unexpected inheritance from a complete stranger, Madame Eva d’Orsey, Grace is drawn to uncover the identity of her mysterious benefactor.

Weaving through the decades, from 1920s New York to Monte Carlo, Paris, and London, the story Grace uncovers is that of an extraordinary women who inspired one of Paris’s greatest perfumers. Immortalized in three evocative perfumes, Eva d’Orsey’s history will transform Grace’s life forever, forcing her to choose between the woman she is expected to be and the person she really is.

The Perfume Collector  explores the complex and obsessive love between muse and artist, and the tremendous power of memory and scent.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS (2014), FLIGHT OF DREAMS (2016), and I WAS ANASTASIA (2018). Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, and Book of the Month Club selections. She is the co-founder of SheReads.org and lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her family.

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A Room Of Her Own: The Writing Space of Kathleen Tessaro

Kathleen_Tessaro-writing

Kathleen says: “As a lap top user, I roam all over the house. Here I am, making the most of the summer!”

What we love about this room: the windows, the hydrangeas, and of course the Mac! All in all this looks like the perfect place to create.

Question: is there a special place that you love to write? What gets you in the groove?

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS (2014), FLIGHT OF DREAMS (2016), and I WAS ANASTASIA (2018). Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, and Book of the Month Club selections. She is the co-founder of SheReads.org and lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her family.

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What’s The Moral Of The Story?

Today’s post by this month’s featured author, Kathleen Tessaro | @Kathleen Tessaro

Kathleen Tessaro

Kathleen Tessaro

Living with Ambiguity…

Recently I read a review of my new novel, The Perfume Collector. While the reviewer enjoyed the book, she ended her piece wondering what the moral of the story was, a question that, frankly, surprised me.

It’s true that I associate moral endings more with Aesop’s fables or the maddening tales of Guy de Maupassant. That kind of storytelling has its place. However, my reader’s query forced me to consider my own lack of, and indeed, aversion to, a neatly packaged moral message.

For me, ambiguity is a worthy theme in itself. As we get older, life becomes increasingly conflicted. People we love do things we disagree with fundamentally. Others we were inclined to dismiss take actions we unexpectedly admire. To put it simply, there’s bad in the best of us and good in the worst. Perhaps most importantly, we discover in ourselves a capacity for error and misguided prejudice that requires sober reevaluation. We’re not, in short, the people we imagined we were. And neither is anyone else.

This is a recurring theme in my books; every protagonist I write polishes their identity against the rough surface and confusing duality of life. The characters don’t triumph; instead they learn to tolerate and surrender to the vacillating nature of people and circumstances. It’s not a subject matter I deliberately chose, however, it’s an ongoing question I turn around in my mind with each new set of characters. Ambiguity itself is a creative irritant; the uncomfortable grit that hopefully produces a pearl.

I’ve been told that learning to live with ambiguity and paradox is both the challenge and the measure of becoming an emotionally mature adult. Certainly I find it no easy task. I often wish I could reach back to my younger, cockier self and grab hold of the hard, bright certainty I once enjoyed, when I could clearly divide the world and its people into “right “,' wrong “, “good ” and “bad “.   But I can’t. One of the unfortunate side effects of no longer being able to shoe-horn yourself into those categories is that you’re unable to do it to anyone else.

That’s why I write about the experience of ambiguity — moral, religious, sexual, artistic – and why it appears as a theme in my novels. I want to read about people who have come to grips with their humanness and made peace with the attendant disillusionment that brings. My experience isn’t that life’s people and issues resolve themselves neatly or even come to a discernable end, let alone present a clear lesson. Like it or not, sometimes the point is simply to keep going, without any comforting clarity or reassurance. To me, that persistence in the face of self-doubt is heroism. We blunder, we flounder; we take ridiculous actions, driven by fear, delusions of grandeur; hubris. We try, we fail. We try again.

And occasionally something beautiful happens. Something flawed, starkly miraculous and unexpected. Those are the stories I like best.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS (2014), FLIGHT OF DREAMS (2016), and I WAS ANASTASIA (2018). Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, and Book of the Month Club selections. She is the co-founder of SheReads.org and lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her family.

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Tell Me Something True: A Visit With Kathleen Tessaro

Today’s post by this month’s featured author, Kathleen Tessaro | @KathleenTessaro

Kathleen Tessaro

Kathleen Tessaro

In my fifth novel, The Perfume Collector, a young woman in 1950s London inherits an apartment in Paris from a woman she’s never met. This event begins a transformative journey for her, which profoundly changes her perception of herself and her future.

In fact, this story is taken almost verbatim from an experience a friend of mine recounted to me. This accomplished woman, now in her fifties, was a well-known society hostess and member of the English aristocracy. The daughter of a famously beautiful debutante, she’d been raised into a world of class and privilege, defined by strict social rules and historical alliances. Then one day, when she was in her mid-twenties, she received a letter from a law firm in Paris, informing her that she was the soul beneficiary in the will of a man she’d never heard of. Part of her inheritance included a flat. What followed changed her life forever, and deeply challenged both her identity and sense of purpose in the world.

At the same time, I wanted to tell a story through perfume, focusing on its unique power to release hidden emotional memories. In the end, it turned out to be the perfect medium for capturing different time periods and gave the book a framework.   It’s also the ideal conduit for half-remembered moments, lost loves and unresolvable regrets.

While writing, I was less concerned with the central “mystery ” and more compelled by the impact and implications this had on the lives of my two main characters. When my friend confided in me, I was touched and intrigued by what she did with the information she discovered, and how she developed as a person as a result.   It reminded me of the precariousness of human connection and of the unforeseeable conflicts and circumstances that shape all our lives.

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The Perfume CollectorA secret history of scent, memory and desire   … from the Sunday Times bestselling author of  Elegance  and  The Debutante.

London,1955: Grace Monroe is a very fortunate young woman. In spite of a sheltered upbringing in Oxford, her recent marriage has thrust her into the heart of London’s most refined and ambitious social circles, where alliances are formed and reputations made. However, playing the role of the sophisticated socialite her husband would like her to be doesn’t come naturally to her – and perhaps never will.

Then one evening, a letter arrives from a law firm in Paris. Grace has received an unanticipated inheritance. Only her benefactor, Frenchwoman Eva d’Orsey, is a complete stranger to her. Grace dismisses it as a mistake. However, when later that same night, she suddenly suspects her husband of infidelity, her world is thrown into chaos.

Fleeing London for Paris, Grace searching for information about the mysterious Eva d’Orsey. What she uncovers is the remarkable history of an unconventional woman who inspired one of Paris’s greatest perfumers. Only Eva’s past and Grace’s future intersect. And soon Grace must chose between the life she thinks she ought to live or becoming the person she truly is.

Told in three distinctive perfumes, the story weaves through the decades, from 1920’s New York to Monte Carlo, Paris and London; revealing the complex, obsessive love between muse and artist and the tremendous power of memory and scent.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS (2014), FLIGHT OF DREAMS (2016), and I WAS ANASTASIA (2018). Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, and Book of the Month Club selections. She is the co-founder of SheReads.org and lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her family.

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August Book Club Selection

The Perfume Collector Cropped

Choosing selections for She Reads is more art than science. There are a million factors involved, many that we can’t actually control. But it all begins when a book arrives on our doorstep. The problem with this month’s selection, Kathleen Tessaro’s THE PERFUME COLLECTOR, was that no sooner had it arrived, it was stolen. By my sister. Never let it be said that books aren’t judged by their covers. Because they are. My sister absconded with the book because it’s gorgeous. (I do love red)  The fact that it contains a dazzling story just makes it magic.

By the time THE PERFUME COLLECTOR finally made it’s way back to me I was dying to experience it for myself. And I was not disappointed. It’s everything we want a She Reads selection to be: smart, thought-provocting, emotional, compelling. Brilliantly written. Filled with secrets and memories and hope.

* * *

The Perfume CollectorA secret history of scent, memory and desire   … from the Sunday Times bestselling author of  Elegance  and  The Debutante.

London,1955: Grace Monroe is a very fortunate young woman. In spite of a sheltered upbringing in Oxford, her recent marriage has thrust her into the heart of London’s most refined and ambitious social circles, where alliances are formed and reputations made. However, playing the role of the sophisticated socialite her husband would like her to be doesn’t come naturally to her – and perhaps never will.

 Then one evening, a letter arrives from a law firm in Paris. Grace has received an unanticipated inheritance. Only her benefactor, Frenchwoman Eva d’Orsey, is a complete stranger to her. Grace dismisses it as a mistake. However, when later that same night, she suddenly suspects her husband of infidelity, her world is thrown into chaos.

Fleeing London for Paris, Grace searches for information about the mysterious Eva d’Orsey. What she uncovers is the remarkable history of an unconventional woman who inspired one of Paris’s greatest perfumers. Only Eva’s past and Grace’s future intersect. And soon Grace must chose between the life she thinks she ought to live or becoming the person she truly is.

Told in three distinctive perfumes, the story weaves through the decades, from 1920’s New York to Monte Carlo, Paris and London; revealing the complex, obsessive love between muse and artist and the tremendous power of memory and scent.

Add THE PERFUME COLLECTOR to your Goodreads to-read list.

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Kathleen TessaroBorn in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Kathleen Tessaro attended the University of Pittsburgh before entering the drama program of Carnegie Mellon University. In the middle of her sophomore year, she went to study in London for three months and stayed for the next twenty-three years. She began writing at the suggestion of a friend and was an early member of the Wimpole Street Writer’s Workshop. Her debut novel,  Elegance, became a bestseller in hardback and paperback. All of Kathleen’s novels including  Innocence,  The Flirt,  The Debutante, and most recently,  The Perfume Collector  have been translated into many languages and sold all over the world. She returned to Pittsburgh in 2009, where she now lives with her husband and son.

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About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS (2014), FLIGHT OF DREAMS (2016), and I WAS ANASTASIA (2018). Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, and Book of the Month Club selections. She is the co-founder of SheReads.org and lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her family.

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