Release Date: January 29th, 2013
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: I received a finished copy from the publisher for a TLC Book Tour
Description from Goodreads: Evangeline is eighteen years old when her grandmother gives her the ultimate gift-a scent she has created just for her. From the moment Eva places a drop on her neck, her entire life changes. Previously unnoticed, she becomes the object of intense desire for everyone around her. Men dance close to her; women dip their noses deep into her hair; even the cats outside her bedroom cry to be near her. Gabriel, the quiet student Eva has admired from afar, falls head-over-heels in love with her. But soon the gift begins to control Eva's life: strangers follow her around, sniffing and touching her at every turn. When Eva meets Michael, an artist who barely registers her smell, Eva wonders if he is the one person who can love her for herself. Or is her scent impossible to escape? A bewitching, wildly imaginative novel steeped in the mythology of perfume, Scent of Darkness seduces the reader's every sense.
Review: To be completely honest, I don't even know where to begin with this review. This book left me conflicted in a lot of ways, perhaps more than any book I have read in the past couple of years. You see, I don't know how I feel about it. There were parts that I liked: the atmosphere, the setting, the prose, but there were parts that I completely didn't like, or rather did not understand the author's intentions.
The characters were completely underdeveloped and also quite unlikable. The protagonist was pretty much a selfish bitch, and the two love interests didn't have a personality. One was completely wrapped up in his schoolwork (medical school--and he neglected the protagonist), and the only other signifying characteristic was his star birthmark (who cares?). The other love interest was an arrogant artist who treated the protagonist like crap and I don't understand why she kept going back to him.
And this is where I say that I didn't understand what the author was going for because I don't really understand why she wrote her characters like that. She must have intended for them to be selfish and unlikable, but why? The characters were complete caricatures of what they could have been. For me personally, I can handle unlikable characters if there is something else about the book that keeps me engaged. But there just wasn't enough here to work for me.
It's a really tough book to review though because I think for the right person, this would be a complete hit. I was just not that person. And I know normally it's a complete cop-out when a blogger says that in a review, but here I absolutely mean it. The writing was atmospheric, and I truly felt like author brought the smoky, ancient, overwhelming-to-the-senses city of New Orleans to life. The prose was absolutely gorgeous. Case in point, see the following:
Because she was old I had already spent many nights in bed, imagining her death, steeling myself ahead of time against a world without her in it. But just then I knew there was no way to prepare for such a thing, because the universe becomes a different place with each person who steps in or out.
This is the main character, Evangeline, talking about her grandmother. It resonated with me because I know exactly how she feels. I did this with my own grandparents, and in some ways you can prepare for their death, but only so much. You have no idea how things are going to end up once they are gone. In the beginning of the book, I liked Evangeline. I loved the close bond she had with her grandmother. But when she met Gabriel, it all fell apart.
And in the end, I don't understand the point of this book. Evangeline spent a lot of time not understanding why her grandmother gave her this scent to change her life. She thought it was a blessing at times, and a curse at others, but that question was never truly answered. And I was waiting for it to be. I can't speak about the conclusion without spoiling it, but let's just say that none of the events in this book were really even necessary. And I dislike books like that. It made me feel like I wasted my time.
That being said, I think a lot of readers LIKE books like this. It's definitely a strange one. I expected it to be steamier and have more sex than it did, and I wouldn't classify this as new adult either, so in the end, I have labeled it as literary fiction. I think it does have a distinct writing style and I think the author was going for a novel that was multi-layered and she wanted to make us think, but in the end, it just wasn't the book for me. And that's why picking a rating was so difficult. But I settled on 3 stars because the book left me feeling rather neutral.