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Wednesday, 31 July 2013

The Power of Perfume in books - a collection

Recently we have come across quite a few novels in which perfume is a significant feature, so we thought we would bring together a collection to stimulate and saturate the senses. Several genres feature, so take your pick, sniff out (sorry!) a good read! And of course, we would love it if our readers would add their favourite perfume-themed books via the Comments Box, as we are sure there are many more out there, we have simply started the ball rolling.... 

We would like to thank the readers at Mumsnet, who gave us their suggestions:
PoppadomPreach, FruminousBanderSnatch, KatyMac, SarahandFuck, thequeenmary


The Scent of Triumph by Jan Moran is set both in Paris and GrasseParis-born Danielle Bretancourt von Hoffman is a modern young woman with a natural gift. In the language of perfumery, she is a Nose, with the rare ability to recognize thousands of essences by memory.

The year is 1939, and on the day that England declares war on Germany, Danielle and her family are caught in the midst of a raging disaster sweeping across Europe.Her life takes a tragic turn when her husband and their only son are stranded behind enemy lines. Summoning her courage, she spies for the French resistance, but is forced to flee Europe with fragments of her family. Destitute, she mines her talents to create a magnificent perfume that captures the hearts of Hollywood stars, then gambles to win wealth and success as a couturier. 



The Perfume Garden by Kate Lord Brown is set in Valencia. High in the hills of Valencia, a 
forgotten house guards its secrets. Untouched since Franco's forces tore through Spain in 1936, the whitewashed walls have crumbled, the garden, laden with orange blossom, grown wild.
Emma Temple is the first to unlock its doors in seventy years. Guided by a series of letters and a key bequeathed in her mother's will, she has left her job as London's leading perfumier to restore this dilapidated villa to its former glory. It is the perfect retreat: a wilderness redolent with strange and exotic scents, heavy with the colours and sounds of a foreign time. But for her grandmother, Freya, a British nurse who stayed here during Spain's devastating civil war, Emma's new home evokes terrible memories. Our blogpost

Perfume by Patrick Suskind set in Paris and Le Midi
Survivor, genius, perfumer, killer: this is Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. He is abandoned on the filthy streets of Paris as a child, but grows up to discover he has an extraordinary gift: a sense of smell more powerful than any other human's. Soon, he is creating the most sublime fragrances in all the city. Yet there is one odour he cannot capture. It is exquisite, magical: the scent of a young virgin. And to get it he must kill. And kill. And kill...











The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro is set in New York and Paris of the 1920s. One letter will turn newly-married Grace Munroe’s life upside down: ‘Our firm is handling the estate of the deceased Mrs Eva D’Orsey and it is our duty to inform you that you are named as the chief beneficiary in her will. We request your presence at our offices at your earliest convenience, so that we may go through the details of your inheritance.’
There is only one problem. Grace has never heard of Eva D’Orsey.
So begins a journey which leads Grace through the streets of Paris and into the seductive world of perfumers and their muses. An abandoned perfume shop on the Left Bank will lead her to unravel the heartbreaking story of her mysterious benefactor, an extraordinary woman who bewitched high society in 1920s New York and Paris.


Wildest Dreams by Jennifer BlakeTwo extraordinary women - 150 years apart - search Europe for a special perfume, and their own secret hearts for the thing that matters most....
The perfume is legendary, once worn by Cleopatra and Empress Josephine -- and made in New Orleans for more than 150 years. Its history and enthralling scent render it priceless, and while many are determined to exploit it, Joletta Caressa's beloved grandmother, Violet, took its secret formula with her when she died.
Now Joletta must reconstruct it using the journals written by Violet, who brought the perfume home from a Victorian-era grand tour of Europe. The code is in the yellowed pages, tied to the places Violet visited -- London, Paris, the Swiss Alps, Venice, and a secluded garden in the Italian countryside.




Perfume of Paradise by Jennifer Blake set in the Caribbean and New Orleans - Hot, sultry passion blooms on a lush Caribbean island, but is it real? The drums warn of trouble on the island of Saint-Domingue as Elene prepares to be wed to a groom she barely knows. To soothe her fears, her servant Devota gives her a special voodoo perfume said to captivate any man, insuring his lifelong devotion. But a slave uprising interrupts the wedding vows.Sea Captain Ryan Bayard rescues the fascinating bride-to-be and retreats to safety with her. Trapped together in close quarters as death and destruction rage outside, the scent of her perfume is maddening. The attraction is so strong Ryan cannot resist making passionate love to her.


In non fiction we feature Chandler Burr's account to find the perfect perfume in The Perfect Scent. Follow the creation in NYC of the scent 'Lovely' for Sarah Jessica Parker. And in Paris follow how Hermes sets about creating 'Un Jardin sur le Nil' - facts abound (170,000 bottles of fragrance are sold in France every day, for example). A revelation of the top companies who own other companies, the real inside track.









The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber has a nod to the perfumier. It is the story of a well-read London prostitute named Sugar, who spends her free hours composing a violent, pornographic screed against men. Michel Faber's dazzling second novel dares to go where George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss and the works of Charles Dickens could not. We learn about the positions and orifices that Sugar and her clients favour, about her lingering skin condition, and about the suspect ingredients of her prophylactic douches. Still, Sugar believes she can make a better life for herself.When she is taken up by a wealthy man, the perfumer William Rackham, her wings are clipped and she must balance financial security against the obvious servitude of her position. 


Click on the covers to find our more about each book. 



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Tina and The TripFiction Team 




Monday, 29 July 2013

Penny Feeny reviews 'The Incident' set on the BALTIC COAST

 Penny Feeny by 
Stephanie de Leng

We are so pleased to welcome Penny Feeny as our guest blogger, author herself of two terrific novels set in Italy. She reviews The Incident by Kenneth Macleod, set on the Baltic Coast of Germany.

Penny has worked as a copywriter, editor, and radio presenter but her real love is writing fiction. Her short stories have been broadcast by the BBC and appeared widely in magazines and anthologies (Her Majesty, A Little Aloud, and Bracket among others). The story she wrote for Bracket subsequently grew into a novel,The Apartment in Rome, which has just been published by Tindal Street Press. Her debut, That Summer in Ischia, reached Amazon's number one spot and was their best-selling title in the summer of 2011. She's been settled in Liverpool with her family for many years now, but previously lived in Italy and will always been drawn to that most seductive of countries!



The Incident by Kenneth Macleod



Until recently much of the Baltic has been inaccessible to the West. Perhaps this is the reason we’ve been lured to the heat, colour and sophistication of the Mediterranean.  But the Baltic has its own charm:  a glorious coastline of long sandy beaches and warm shallow waters, with a fascinating history to be read in its abandoned buildings.  In Heiligendamm, for instance, where the G8 summit was held in 2007, there is a magnificent crescent of grand Edwardian villas from  the resort’s heyday, lying empty and shuttered for decades.
Heiligendamm is in what used to be East Germany. Kenneth Macleod’s The Incident takes place near Grömitz which faces it across the sea from the West. The novel is set in the mid-80s when the Berlin Wall still divided the country, and the machinations of the Stasi feature prominently.  Macleod  also begins his tale with the image of a seaside structure: a lifeguard tower  – ‘the Germans call a tower like this a tomb’ – which for the narrator, Craig, is haunted by the ghosts of two children.

Craig, a young Scots student, is working as a lifeguard at a summer holiday camp. Macleod is a master of graphic detail and gives a vivid rendition of the ritual of Craig’s day, the sense of claustrophobia in the tower besieged by wasps, the freedom of the sea, the atmosphere of playfulness on the beach, his German colleagues’ sense of humour. He also, very slowly and deliberately , creates a mounting tension.  You know from the start that by the end of the day two children will die – but you don’t know which two, or how or why. The details of the setting and the suggestion of menace are extremely well-crafted, but then the novel takes a sudden swerve into another story, that of East German Gerd, who was recruited by the Stasi.

In the first section Craig gives us a tense account of his grandfather’s experiences during World War 2 when, as a merchant seaman, he survived a torpedo attack from a German U-boat. This is harrowing stuff but justifiably included to illustrate the author’s theme and explain how, through a subsequent connection of his grandfather’s, Craig finds himself working in Germany. Gerd’s account of his recruitment makes gripping reading, like a Cold War thriller complete with horrific torture and disregard for life, but it doesn’t really cohere with the rest of the narrative.

All three stories consider the randomness of fate: of being in a particular place at a particular time, of trying to perform a duty and, almost by happenstance, falling short. Towards the end of the novel, a new character is introduced, whose only function appears to be to emphasise these points  and clarify the role of a tragic hero. When the rest of the writing is so compelling this episode seems intrusive and a little patronising.

There’s no doubt, however, that this is a highly ambitious literary novel, with a very strong sense of place and wonderfully detailed descriptions. Today the Baltic is as serene a destination as you will find, but The Incident is a reminder of a period when things were very different.



Thank you to Penny from Tina and the TripFiction Team. Click on the bookcovers of Penny's novels if you would like to find out more and to purchase. And if you would like to find more books set in and evocative of Germany, then click here 






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Friday, 26 July 2013

Covers, lovers, and luxury labels

"There are no good girls gone wrong - just bad girls found out" (Mae West). This novel is a homage to the Wicked Women in this world... think Madonna, Joan Rivers, Lady Gaga, Alexis Colby and the polyglot character in this novel, Loretta Fiorentino.

This post can now be found on the new TripFiction website here




Saturday, 20 July 2013

Crime, Race and Politics - SOUTH AFRICA


‘7 Days’, published in 2011, is the third book by Deon Meyer in which detective Benny Griessel is the lead character. The other two are Thirteen Hours (2009) and Devil's Peak (2004) – although Benny had made a first cameo appearance in Dead Before Dying (1996). The base character was created very quickly by Meyer as Benny was not a main protagonist in ‘Dead Before Dying’ – and this very possibly explains the cliché of yet another alcoholic detective in the mould of those who have been so popular with crime writers over recent literary history (perhaps Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole is the best known current example…).

‘7 Days’ is a very well written fast moving detective thriller. Good characters, good characterisation, and a great plot. Deon writes in Afrikaans, and the book is excellently translated into English by K.L. Seegers  - though it would have been good to have advance notice of the Glossary at the very end of the book…might have saved some guessing :). The literary quality is clear to see – perhaps a little simpler in construct that some of Meyer’s earlier novels, but that does not detract at all from the read. It is a page turner, but it is a literary page turner. The story has twists, turns, and false leads – just as you would expect. It is, as with all Meyer’s books, extremely well and thoroughly researched – and you can, for example, easily appreciate the respect he has for the elite HAWKS detectives with whom he spent time in Cape Town before he started to write the book – his appreciation of their dedication and professionalism comes through very clearly. Meyer, too, very precisely researches locations in which to set his characters – Hanneke’s apartment and van Eeden’s mansion are based on real properties in Cape Town.

The geographical setting of ‘7 Days’ in South Africa is not a key factor in developing the storyline – although, for me, the comment that the completion of the NI highway had not been a priority once the World Cup was over (a criticism made of more than one delayed infrastructure project…) – and the passing reference to the Radisson Blu in Sandton - both rang true. I have driven down the first – and visited the second – quite recently.

But the post-apartheid reality of South African business and politics is very certainly a key part of the storyline. Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) drives the plot of ‘7Days’…The BEE Act was brought in during 2003 to speed the move in South Africa to greater black representation in what had been (and still is) a predominantly white business society. By general consent, BEE has worked – up to a point. But it has also imposed an enormous administrative and logistic burden on small business – quite often it is hard to hire the best person for a position if that person is not black. BEE has also made a significant number of people, such as van Eeden in the book, seriously rich. The deals to set up major BEE compliant enterprises are extremely complex (and, again, extremely well researched by Meyer). The fixers, the merchant banks, the lawyers, and the advisors all make money – often to the tune of millions of rand. As do the number of elite black businessmen who ‘front’ some of the purchasing organisations (in the book there are those with ANC, Communist, and Trade Union backgrounds – this is not unusual). Greed often finds ways round both the letter and spirit of commercial law. South Africa has developed a new business and political elite who have great wealth. But that wealth does not filter down either to the general black population or to the increasingly unemployed and rejected Afrikaans’ working class. I am sure that is what Meyer was hoping to communicate to an audience both in South Africa and beyond.

All in all ‘7 Days’ is an excellent and thought provoking book. An exciting and well told story line – and also an eye-opener for anyone whose view of the new South Africa is limited to Cape wines, safaris in the Kruger National Park, or lazing on the beaches of the Eastern Cape. Apartheid may be long since dead – but it has not been replaced by nirvana.

If you want to read more books set in and evocative of Cape Town, then click here 



Tony and the TripFiction Team