Friday, May 31, 2013

The Memory of Scent: Art and Murder in 19th Century Paris by Lisa Burkitt

Book Description

"Henri is a bit of a night owl. I like him. I think his insecurities make him comfortable to be around and he is instantly recognisable - this little bearded man with the bulbous nose and checked trousers. And he adores Maria, which is probably why he paints her so much. 'Henri de Toulouse Lautrec', his name has the ring of the nobility that he does indeed spring from, but I would say he is more at home among the girls of Montmartre."

Set against the backdrop of Paris in 1883, this 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, her life is lived on the fringes of the Impressionist movement in a world of art and music; for Babette, her life begins to unravel after she is imprisoned for the artist's murder, eventually become a courtesan on the French streets. This novel is told in alternating chapters, from the perspective of both women, as the truth is slowly revealed...

Review

Paris in the 1880’s was a decadent place to be filled with elegance, art, passion, and wonderful food. Author, Lisa Burkitt, writes a novel about the great impressionist artists of the time – Renois, Monet, Degas, and the famous Toulouse Lautrec.

At the heart of the story are two women. Fleur and Babette who are models for Toulouse Latrec. The paths of their lives take drastic turns as one falls into poverty and prostitution and the other flirts in the elegant salons of artists and society.

This is an intriguing story of contrasts, rich and poor, fortunate and unfortunate, love and hate, friendship and enmity. There is a murder mystery as well as madness, decadence, and illicit sexual trauma. Most of all, the novels truly brings to life the rich period with its cafes, artists, social encounters, and descriptions. A rich, multi-layered story indeed!