Hey there, book lover! Before we get into the usual review post, I want to let you know that we will be having a special edition of Books, WIPs, + Sips Book Club for Quarter 3, the date for which has been bumped up to accommodate the schedule of our very special guest. You DON’T want to miss it! Details below! Now on to the review!
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.
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.
Synopsis source: Goodreads
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This is the much-anticipated final book in Alka Joshi’s Jaipur trilogy, better known for the first book in the series, The Henna Artist which was followed by The Secret Keeper of Jaipur. While you don’t need to read the other two books first, I think doing so would lead to a richer reading experience with this book, so I recommend it, especially since so many characters are reintroduced in this book.
The book picks up shortly after the end of Malik’s story in The Secret Keeper of Jaipur, switching perspectives to give us Radha’s story. We first met Radha as the 13 year old sister of Lakshmi in The Henna Artist. Radha was very sheltered, naïve, and in her small village, had been known as “the bad luck girl,” a moniker that affected her self-perception greatly as a child and one that continues to haunt her well into adulthood. At 13, she had a temper born of defensiveness and a desire to prove herself to be mature and responsible, which often led to destructive behavior in the large city and high-class circles she occupied with her sister in Jaipur. Combined with her naivete, this behavior led her to become pregnant and give birth to a son, whom she gave up for adoption.
In The Perfumist of Paris, Radha contends with the pressures of being a working mother, which has put a heavy strain on her marriage, and then Niki comes back into her life, a secret that will affect everyone and everything in her life.
I have to say that this was not my favorite book of the trilogy. That honor, without a doubt, lays with The Henna Artist. I would actually say that it is my least favorite of the trilogy, but it was still an enjoyable read.
It was pretty slow starting, not much going on really, just setting up later events. But this time served to show us just how little Radha has managed to mature as she has gotten older. She still bears a significant resemblance to the emotionally scarred and resentful girl she was at 13, and I was a bit disappointed in this. There is growth in her character, but it happens almost exclusively in the last third of the book. Still, I loved the peek into the perfume world and enjoyed reading about scents and how they were made. I loved “traveling” to India through the author’s vivid imagery, although that same imagery didn’t extend as thoroughly into the Paris portion.
I felt like the work/life balance struggle that Radha struggles with is something that permeates even today for women in the workplace. The guilt of wanting to carve out something for yourself that is solely yours, the audacity to go through with it, the pettiness of people in the workplace…these are all things that we can relate to even almost 50 years after the time this book was set in. I loved how Joshi represented women helping other women and showed examples of men able to be allies to them, even unexpected ones.
While it wasn’t my favorite of the series, I still enjoyed it, respected what she was trying to accomplish, and loved the way things ended for the characters I’ve come to know and love. If you enjoyed the other books, then you’ll like this one too.
I’m looking forward to discussing these things more with the author during our live book club discussion! Read on for details!
Book Club Details!
If you missed our discussion with the author when we read her last book, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur, then you’ll be happy to know that Alka will be returning to discuss the final installment of her Jaipur trilogy!
Tuesday, June 6th at 7pm CST (rescheduled, please see announcement below) on Instagram Stories Live, I’ll be joined once again by best-selling author Alka Joshi to discuss The Perfumist of Paris, her inspiration for the book/series, and find out what she’s working on next!
June 6, 2023 Update: Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, our interview with the author has to be rescheduled. There is no date set at this time, but as soon as we have a new date, I’ll update accordingly. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
June 9, 2023 Update: We’ve been able to reschedule our chat with Alka for August 1st, 2023 at 7pm CST on Instagram Live. We hope you’ll join us!
I’ll be joined by my friends Kalley of Kneedles & Life and Leyla from Leylalicious, who were with me when we talked to Alka the last time as well. It’s a reunion you don’t want to miss, so grab a WIP and something to sip and join us!
Alka Joshi is a literary sensation, celebrated for her bestselling Jaipur Trilogy series, which includes The Henna Artist, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur, and The Perfumist of Paris. With her debut novel, The Henna Artist, Joshi quickly gained widespread recognition, earning a coveted spot on the New York Times bestseller list and being chosen as a Reese Witherspoon Pick. The books have since been translated in 29 countries and 35 territories, and their success has led to a Netflix adaptation currently in development. The Perfumist of Paris is a Globe and Mail Bestseller immediately after its release. Born in India, Joshi moved to the U.S. with her family as a child, and went on to receive a BA from Stanford University and an MFA from California College of Arts. She currently resides on the beautiful Monterey Peninsula. Joshi’s work continues to captivate readers around the world with its rich storytelling, vibrant characters, and unique cultural perspective.
If you couldn’t make the live discussion, no worries! I have posted the replay here for you so you can watch/listen at your leisure!
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