Paris, 1974. Radha is now thirty-two and living in Paris with her husband, Pierre, and their two daughters. She still grieves for the baby boy she gave up years ago, when she was only a child herself, but she loves being a mother to her daughters, and she’s finally found her passion—the treasure trove of scents.
When her friend’s grandfather offered her a job at his parfumerie, she quickly discovered she had a talent—she could find the perfect fragrance for any customer who walked in the door. Now, ten years later, she’s working for a master perfumer, helping to design completely new fragrances for clients and building her career one scent at a time. She only wishes Pierre could understand her need to work. She feels his frustration, but she can’t give up this thing that drives her.
Tasked with her first major project, Radha travels to India, where she enlists the help of her sister, Lakshmi, and the courtesans of Agra—women who use the power of fragrance to seduce, tease and entice. She’s on the cusp of a breakthrough when she finds out the son she never told her husband about is heading to Paris to find her—upending her carefully managed world and threatening to destroy a vulnerable marriage.
The final chapter in Alka Joshi’s New York Times bestselling Jaipur trilogy takes readers to 1970s Paris, where Radha’s budding career as a perfumer must compete with the demands of her family and the secrets of her past.
“Being a woman is difficult. I can see why my mother didn’t like her own gender. We can do so much. Give so much. But not everyone wants what we’re offering. And in the end, we’re left with…pieces of a whole. Shards. Splinters. Chips. Pick them up, they cut our hands. Leave them on the ground, they cut our feet. It’s hard for us to just walk away.”
5 stars and 5 stars for the whole trilogy
This is the last book of “The Jaipur Trilogy” by Alka Joshi even if I wouldn’t mind other books about Radha’s daughters or Nikki…
I listened to the three books back to back, devouring them in less than a week! That’s how captivating that trilogy is.
This has definitely turned into a family saga and this time we follow Radha, Lakshmi’s sister now in her thirties and living in Paris with her husband Pierre and her two daughters Shanti and Asha.
Radha has always dreamt of being a mother, of having a family, to compensate for the one she had lost at a young age.
Only now, she realizes that Lakshmi was right all these years ago, when she told Lakshmi to give her son for adoption because being a mother and a wife was not everything. You also have to find that part of yourself that is only for you. What drives you, what is your passion.
That’s what Radha has found creating perfumes for the Maison d’Yves. And now, she has been entrusted with a big project. She wants to raise to the challenge but that means working long hours, asking for the help of her mother in law with her daughters and traveling back to India for work. Finding a balance between her private life and her work life.
All things that do not please her husband.
But what should she do? Be a stay at home mother and wife, give everything to her family and keep nothing for herself?
If that wasn’t enough to create tension in her life, the son she gave for adoption and never told her husband about, Nikki, is now in Paris, seeking answers.
Only, Radha has been so traumatized when she had to give him away for his own good that it’s too painful to see him. It’s too painful to relive all these moments and to give up her secret.
Add to all that a sabotage of her work at the parfumerie and you have lots of tension in that book.
Once again, Alka Joshi’s writing is wonderful. She made me SEE and SMELL the Paris of the seventies, Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal and all the scents used either in preparing exotic food (I now have a craving for Indian cuisine 😉), either in Radha’s perfumes.
The topics broached in this story are:
-being a woman and your place in society;
-sisterhood not only in blood but also through found family and friends;
-karma and the people you live and interact with;
-secrets and how you can free yourself in telling them.
What I adored in this book above all else were the bonds and the support all these women created. Radha and Lakshmi of course but also Radha and the courtesans of Agra. Radha and a former enemy too. Even if some bonds are not meant to last a lifetime…
“I’ve come to think that some people are meant to be in our lives for a certain length of time and not a moment more.”
If you loved The Henna Artist and The Secret Keeper of Jaipur then I highly recommend the Perfumist of Paris.
Also the narrator Sneha Mathan does once again a stellar job!
Thanks for reading.