The Memory of Scent: Art and Murder in 19th Century Paris
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"Henri is a bit of a night owl. I like him. I think his insecurities make him comfortable to be around and he is instantly recognisable - this little bearded man with the bulbous nose and checked trousers. And he adores Maria, which is probably why he paints her so much. 'Henri de Toulouse Lautrec', his name has the ring of the nobility that he does indeed spring from, but I would say he is more at home among the girls of Montmartre."
Set against the backdrop of Paris in 1883, this is the story of two French women, Fleur and Babette, and of how their lives diverge when the artist they both model for is found dead. For Fleur, her life is lived on the fringes of the Impressionist movement in a world of art and music; for Babette, her life begins to unravel after she is imprisoned for the artist's murder, eventually become a courtesan on the French streets. This novel is told in alternating chapters, from the perspective of both women, as the truth is slowly revealed that they are the one person, whose personality was shattered by childhood trauma.
About the Author
Lisa Burkitt is an award-winning radio producer, who has written across a wide variety of formats, including film and short story. Her short story 'A Pinch of Tarragon' was chosen for inclusion in the international 'Best Paris Stories' anthology, being launched in Paris in May 2012.
sophisticated artist. I cannot explain the rage that bubbled inside of me though. It shocked me. I did everything in my power to supress it and to present myself only as a scented scabbard from which he could draw his genius. I know now I should not have drunk wine with him as that must have seemed like an invitation, or at least approval of time spent in his company. The wine, the fumes, my newness to Paris – how did I so easily allow all of that to blunt my judgement, my common sense, my
tight glossy chignon and a warm smile enters followed by Catherine. ‘Step back a little, girl. Let me look at you.’ And so begins a curious stand-off, a mutual appraisal, she of this stranger who has just turned up on her doorstep, me of the type of woman who would run such an establishment. She looks like a youthful aunt, not quite having reached the stage where you kindly describe women of a certain age as ‘well preserved’. She does not appear to have to make too much effort in her
a pyramid shape with his fingertips and taps his lips. Who is meant to speak first? This room is very different from the parlour that I was first brought in to. There is an overcrowding of ornamentation. A large round table sweeps up through the throats of two white carved swans and they in turn are entangled in gilt-edged lilies and bulrushes. A white and gold bookcase is carved on either side with two boys in curls and arms crossed over their chests, ensnared by gold leaves. The room is warmed
disappointment. ‘Which is why a contact had given me the name of someone I can make enquiries of, if we get there before he leaves for the afternoon.’ I lean across the table and kiss George on the forehead. He grabs his bowler hat, jams it on his head and reaches for my hand as we run out the door and onto the street searching out a cab. ‘Can you afford this?’ ‘Much as I love to play the tortured writer, I do get a healthy monthly stipend from my father. It is more to protect his reputation
clearly looking for a quarrel. Unwittingly, I give him the opportunity when he catches sight of my evidently rapturous expression as George enters the restaurant and joins our table. His friend and Philippe’s nephew, Gaston, follows along behind him. Philippe gestures towards the waiter. ‘Two more settings, but first two more glasses.’ George whispers close to my ear as he passes behind my chair. ‘In my experience, pretty girls travel in pairs so I brought Gaston along just in case.’ He takes