The book focuses on the L'Etoile family and along with it there are many characters linked to the world of perfume, all of whom bring to the story their own individual stories from both long ago and the present.
We have Jac and her brother Robbie - both of the present generation heavily influenced by not just their dead parents but by their grandfather as well. The legacy of the perfume business has been one of generations - and with it are myriads of stories both unfounded and true and the search for the twelve memory tools in perfume dating back to the time of Cleopatra goes on.
Even in present day times there are those who believe that if those essences could be distilled it would lead to reincarnation and the ability to be linked with a loved one through birth and constant rebirth. Of the two Jac seems to be the one more spiritually linked to the perfume as well as to the possibility of reincarnation but she has actively removed herself from the scene preferring to deal with the prosaic business of life in the here and now.
Spanning a time frame from Cleopatra and Egypt to the present day unrest in Tibet and the atrocities committed by the Chinese in putting down the Tibetan rebellions and modern Paris we smoothly move from one era to the next, from one geographical sphere to the next and this all adds to the fascination of this story. The descriptions are imaginative and I found the episodes in the catacombs in Paris evocative and added to the aura of mystery to the story.
I never knew the importance that perfume played in history and this book was an education in itself on the subject. Fascinating reading as it was not just a family saga of the L'Etoile family and their ancient business but it also combined mystery, present day politics and the stories of the Dalai Lama and how the Tibetans are not just surviving but progressing in the face of rigid aggression but also how religious as well as other beliefs do survive despite any obstacles you throw at it!
An author I will be going back to.