What Inspired The Book of Lost Fragrances?
I was reading Cleopatra (69 BCE to 30BCE), who was the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, and found she was fascinated with and some say obsessed by scent. Marc Anthony built her a fragrance factory where he planted now extinct flora and fauna including groves of balsam trees (important in the creation of perfume at the time) confiscated from Herod.
In the 1980s a team of Italian and Israeli archaeologists believe they unearthed the factory at the south end of the Dead Sea, 30 km from Ein Gedi. Residues of ancient perfumes along with seats where customers received beauty treatments were found there.
Cleopatra was said to have kept a recipe book for her perfumes, entitled Cleopatra gynaeciarum libri. The book has been described in writings by historians Dioscorides, Homer and Pliny the Elder. No known copy of the book exists today.
When I read about that book, I knew I had the idea for a new novel.
Of an everlasting covenant ripe with possibility. Of lost souls reunited.
Tears sprang to the perfumer’s eyes as he inhaled again. This was the kind of scent he’d always imagined capturing. He was smelling liquid emotion. Giles L’Etoile was smelling love.
The perfumer was desperate. What gave this fragrance its complexity? Why was it so elusive? Why couldn’t he recognize it? He’d smelled and memorized over five hundred different ingredients. What was in this composition?
If only there were a machine that would be able to take in the air and separate out the components it contained. Long ago, he’d spoken to his father about such a thing. Jean-Louis had scoffed, as he did at most of his son’s inventions and imaginings, chastising him for wasting time on impractical ideas, for indulging in foolish romanticism.