Set against the backdrop of Paris in 1883, The Memory of Scent is the story of two French women, Fleur and Babette, and of how their lives diverge when the artist they both model for is found dead. For Fleur, hers is a life lived on the fringes of the Impressionist movement in a world of colour and music; Babette is not so lucky, and following the death of the artist, her life begins to quickly unravel on the streets of France. This is a novel of the senses, in which memory, love and loss are explored and examined, and where it appears the ties which hold us together can also pull us apart. (via Amazon.co.uk)
I love Paris and Impressionism, so I was very keen to read The Memory of Scent. But, as it turns out, my experience was quite mixed.
I enjoyed the backdrop of Paris, which the author describes in clear, nicely written detail. These descriptions give the novel a lovely romantic tone and bring this renowned era of Parisian history to life. The elements of scent are also well-integrated, and prove to be an extremely important catalyst to the plot. I particularly liked the way that each chapter is set around a specific smell, and how that smell conjures up thoughts, memories, or associations which then move the story forward.
However, I found some parts less agreeable. My chief problem was with the organisation of the plot, which could be confusing. I remember one point in particular where I needed to reread what had happened a few times, just to make sure that I hadn’t missed an important detail. Additionally, I found the voices of the two narrators, Babette and Fleur, a little too similar and sometimes this could add to my confusion.
But even though I believe The Memory of Scent could have benefited from further editing, I still found it a unique novel with some interesting twists. If you’re looking for something different and don’t mind a plot with a gentle pace, this might be for you.
Rating: 3 / 5