The French Perfumer
by Amanda Hampson, Penguin.
A charming flight of fancy as Miss Iris Turner departs postwar London, 1956, bound for France and a position as a live-in secretary for a blind perfumer on the Riviera. Leaving her 17-year job in the civil service and grilled gammon lunches, she starts drinking Bellinis and dancing the merengue at nightclubs in a place where wit is at others’ expense and antiquarian notions of who and who is not proper still exist. Catty party boy Alexander says her frumpiness reminds him of his nanny. Tyrant hotel owner Vivian asks her to use the servants’ entrance. Hammond Brooke may no longer be able to see the Aurelia label of his legendary perfume, but he senses something unique in his new protégée. Set against a backdrop of High Society, Grace Kelly and her wedding to Prince Rainier, it’s light and frothy, but with a very good nose.