For a novel that evokes all the senses – a story of the Spanish Civil war, a perfume Garden and a woman looking for answers
Story in a nutshell
Emma’s mother Liberty, the founder of Liberty Temple perfumes, has just died. She takes over the company thinking that her partner Joe would support her. Instead he is more interested in the third business partner Lila. But then he is thought missing in 9/11. Her mother has left her a house in Spain, a series of letters and a key. So Emma heads off in search of some answers
Cut to Spain 1936 and the horrors of what is unfolding there. Emma’s grandmother Freya is in the heat of the action and the more Emma looks into the old house and the area, the horrors and mystery of what happened here come back.
The house has held its secrets safe for years….until now.
Place and setting
The setting of the novel is both heartbreaking and poignant since the legacy of the past comes back to haunt Emma as she attempts to revive her grandmother’s house where she stayed during the Civil War. The whitewashed walls contain secrets and unspoken words – flashbacks from the present day to 1936 show the house and its meaning in different times and highlight the escalating horror in Spain and especially in Valencia ‘The land of flowers, light and love” which perfect for Emma in the present day as a perfumier and her wish to revive The Perfume Garden as a memory to her mother and grandmother.
Key places and events are evoked here with Valencia, Madrid and Guadalajara (where Freya was a nurse) and Morata de Tajuna in Jarama amongst others where the field hospital was, showing the extent and nature of the Spanish Civil War.
Buoyed by the thought that perfume evokes such strong memories and hope, the novel evokes a strong sense of smell with the flowery notes of orange blossom and neroli coming from every turn of the page.
And we’re not just talking flowers in the perfumed garden, you could recreate this novel quite easily by walking around Valencia, its Quart Tower (Torres de Quart), the streets, parks and Plaza del Ayuntamiento, sampling chocolate con churros and a coffee at a local cafe. Maybe read a poem by Garcia Lorca or a novel by Hemingway as both make an ‘appearance’ of sorts.
History is all around us – and using the five senses we can experience it in this novel.