The French Perfumer by Amanda Hampson – 2017

French PerfumerIris is 35 and living in London in 1956, her only company her father, her cat and a workmate, Colleen.  She does have a brother, but their relationship is tainted by the brother’s ambitious wife.  When her father and cat both die, Iris takes Colleen’s advice and ditches her long-standing Civil Service job and heads off to take up a mysterious secretarial position in the South of France.  Not speaking much French and never having been abroad, Iris is very much at sea.  The large house she arrives at is being run as a guest house for rich eccentrics – but the focus of her work is Hammond Brooke, the brother of her hostess – who is a recluse living in the guest cottage on the grounds.  The novel is a light easy read and has all the requirements for a simple tale of an innocent abroad finding romance despite the artifice of the high society she gets caught up in – it even has quaint drawings within the text.  But there are many twists along the way, and this is a darker story than you first think – with the legacy of the war casting a shadow over the characters.  I was enjoying the read but then was a bit disappointed to find out the bulk of Hammond’s story as related to Iris by another character.  But then we find out a large part of Iris’ story in a separate narrative, and with another twist I finally understood the structure and frame of the book.  It is quite lovely – although dealing with sad things – and has a very nice resolution.

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