Thursday, March 20, 2014

1142. The Collector of Dying Breaths

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I have never before read what you would consider "Gothic Fiction", unless a couple of forays into the works of Anne Rice are considered "Gothic" in their nature or really, depending on the definition if you count "Frankenstein" and so on. I suppose it takes a certain kind of individual to appreciate that type of fiction. I have personally always been interested in M.J. Rose's fiction, from "The Reincarnationist" to the "The Memorist", although I have only read the prior one (I do own the second one, but have not read it yet), and I suppose at some time, a review of it, might appear on this blog. As you know, that book spawned the short lived FOX TV Drama "Past Lives". I have always been interested in "Resurrection", "Reincarnation" and "Past Lives", and of course the search for "Immortality". These concepts have fascinated not only me, but great sages, philosophers, Gnostics and agnostics, Religions the world over and even scientists. Many a great fiction writer has tackled the subject with various degrees of success as well.

In "The Collector of Dying Breaths", M.J. Rose superbly handles all of the above subjects and delivers a powerful novel that must be read to be believed. One other thing before I proceed with this review! Do you like fragrances? Do you have a strong sense of smell? Does your sense of smell get overwhelmed when you go inside a perfume store or a Yankee Candle Shop? How strong is your imagination? When someone describes the scents of roses, cinnamon, carnation, jasmine, patchouli and a little pepper can you smell them --  not just picture them? The beauty of Great Literature is the ability to bring to life the things you read on the page (or in this case on the screen, since I was afforded the opportunity to read an advanced preview of this e-book by the publisher). And the beauty of a Great Imagination is the ability to bring to life that of which you read.

M.J. Rose deftly and capably delivers in every respect. While reading this book, I was transported to Sixteenth Century France. Then, I was whisked away to present day France from the L’Etoile estate outside Paris to the hidden chambers within Fontainebleau were secret portions are assembled and prepared according to archaic formulas with ingredients that are very hard to procure. The plot is a simple whodunit that spans two lives and 500 years. René le Florentin is the perfumer for Catherine de Medici who was Queen of France from 1547 until 1559, as the wife of King Henry II. But Rene is not just a simple perfumer. He is also an Alchemist on a lifetime quest bequeathed to him by his teacher, Brother Dom Serapino who he was apprenticed to while in Italy. René has collected Brother Serapino's "last breath", an act which sets him and us on a quest to find a way to bring back, to reanimate, to reincarnate, the soul of a departed person.

And so this quest links Rene and Jac 
L’Etoile when her brother dies quite unexpectedly, leaving the family perfume business without someone to run it. Jac discovers Robbie's research and those who were funding it and who now want Jac to continue it. But how is Jac connected to René le Florentin? And why is Fontainebleau important in the investigation of this research?

Hundreds of years, passion, the loves of many lives, connected through the past and the present and the sheer will to find answers drive Jac in the present and Rene in the past towards answers. Sometimes the answers we seek are not possible. Indeed, unlike some of the books that I have read that have tackled immortality and reincarnation as a subject this one does not offer easy, happy answers. And this is just as well. The world we live in is not a bright colored, easy world. It has many hues, many interpretations, but it also has some obvious things to like, things to strive for. We strive for knowledge of that which is greater than ourselves. We strive to achieve that something and sometimes we succeed. HOW? Well... For one of the answers, READ THIS BOOK! You won't be disappointed.

This was easily a 5 star read, and now I am looking forward to more great books from M.J. Rose.

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