Prepare to be entranced by this week’s Dish story, the multifaceted mystery from M.J. Rose, The Book of Lost Fragrances. This spellbinding book features Jac, a struggling heroine desperately holding onto her sanity as her hallucinations of other people's lives take her back in time. However, when Jac's brother becomes entangled in a scheme to recreate an ancient memory aid which could spark a foreign revolution, it has never been more important for Jac to hold onto her sense of the here and now. But what will she do when it turns out she’s been remembering her own past lives?
Morgan: We are going to have an especially hard time getting through the description this novel. It is so layered, like a mystery grounded in some harsh realities, shrouded in mysticism.
Whitney: But despite the different narratives that span centuries and the globe-trotting from New York to Paris and even China, it all comes back to the main protagonist Jac L’Etoile.
Morgan: Jac’s a scholar turned TV host who has dedicated her life to uncovering myths.
Whitney: But more than just a vocation, this is a calling for her. It's something she does as a type of therapy in order to try to understand why she has uncontrollable visions of other times and other lives.
Morgan: Considering the fact that this whole book is built around the belief that reincarnation is real, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit I don’t believe in past lives. I mean, if we can’t remember, what would be the point, right?
Whitney: But that’s what the whole story is about — remembering these past lives and using the innate knowledge gained over several lifetimes in order to inspire change. And while I am on the fence about the whole reincarnation deal, M.J. Rose does make a great case for it.
Morgan: Well, she has been researching the subject for ten years. And she very effectively uses her travels and the things she has personally seen to give the book the aforementioned layers.
Whitney: The story is dense — but delicious.
Morgan: Delicious, like the scents made in Jac’s family’s laboratories. After generations as perfumers, the House of L’Etoile is renown for some of the most classic fragrances in the world. It is just like her great grandfather once said:
“Perfume can evoke feelings … Poetry is the very essence of what we do.”
Whitney: However, due to Jac’s father’s illness, the company is on the verge of bankruptcy. The prospects don’t look good — unless Jac and her brother can discover the formula for an ancient Egyptian elixir that is said to trigger sense memories of what has come before.
Morgan: But Jac believes that this is all a bunch of nonsense, and tells her brother Robbie as much.
“For over two hundred years, our family has created and manufactured perfumes and sold them from our store. Just perfumes, Robbie. Mixtures of oils and alcohol. Not dreams. Not fantasies. Those are made up, Robbie. To entertain us.”
Whitney: However, Robbie refuses to give up. He finds ancient pottery shards from his father’s workroom and with nothing but his nose and help from an old friend, Griffin North, he takes it upon himself to sniff out the formula that has the potential to change the world.
Morgan: The political and religious implications are enough that the extinct fragrance garners the interest of several government agencies, as well as some unsavory, underground organizations which want the perfume formula.
Whitney: While this could have been a small story, a family story, but the author gives it international relevance by adding world events into the mix. Readers get a peak into Asia and the fight brewing as China seeks to control Tibet and disenfranchise the country’s Buddhists (and not just through the subtle methods of torture and brainwashing, either).
Morgan: But the story doesn’t linger long on Tibet’s plight. The Book of Lost Fragrances is first and foremost about Jac’s struggle to find Robbie who has gone missing. And in the process she has to rely on Griffin, her brother’s friend and the one man that Jac can’t forget, the lover that walked away from her because he was so worried that he wouldn’t live up to her expectations.
Morgan: But now that fate has brought them back together, will they be able to make their relationship work once and for all?
Whitney: And can he help Jac understand that what she’s been hallucinating, the past lives that might be her own, can be seen as a blessing and not a curse?
Morgan: And what’s going to happen to Robbie?
Whitney: And will we ever stop asking these questions?
Do you need answers as much as Morgan and Whitney do? Then pick up your own copy of The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose. And while you’re shopping, be sure to check out a copy of next week’s Dish book Taming an Impossible Rogue by Suzanne Enoch.