It’s been rare lately that I’ve stumbled upon a book that capture me so entirely that I finish it the same day I started it. Scent of Darkness by Margot Berwin is the latest book to receive that honor from me. It sucked me in on the very first chapter and by the evening, I overstayed my welcome in my cold bath to finish reading it.
Scent of Darkness revolves around eighteen-year-old Evangeline, whose single mother barely gave her any thought. The person who loves Eva the most is her grandmother, with whom she spends her summers. Her grandmother creates perfumes, but not just the kind you splash on before you head out the door. Her perfumes can change a person’s life.
During Eva’s eighteenth year her grandmother dies and leaves her upstate New York home and a personal scent to her. The vial’s note warns Eva to only open it if she wants everything in her life to change. Once Eva absorbs the scent, something amazing happens. Everyone around her, men or women, cannot resist her. Their intense desire and lust for her feels powerful at first but soon begins to smother her.
Eva runs away with her boyfriend Gabriel to the mystical city of New Orleans. There she meets Michael, the only person she’s met who does not notice her new scent. She’s drawn to him hoping that he is attracted to her true self and not because of her grandmother’s vial.
The first thing I noticed about Scent of Darkness were the parallels to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem Evangeline, a tragic love story. In the poem, Evangeline, along with her fellow Acadians, are exiled from Canada. She is separated from her love Gabriel and spends her entire life searching for him, only to find on his death bed many years later. Historically, the Acadians eventually settled in Louisiana.
While Eva physically runs away to New Orleans, she’s also running away from her unhappy past, especially now that her only source of happiness (her grandmother) is gone. Like Evangeline, Eva is searching for her love. Whether it is Gabriel or Michael is unclear to her until the end. Thankfully, Scent of Darkness does not have a tragic ending like Evangeline.
Besides the parallels between the novel and Longfellow’s poem, the mystery of the scent drew me further and further into the story. I was just as curious as everyone else in the novel. What ingredients were in that powerful, magical scent? The answer did not disappoint.
As a native Louisianian, I appreciate any author who creates New Orleans in a realistic manner. I grew up a couple of hours outside of the famous city, but have visited many times. New Orleans’ mishmash of cultures and histories lends well to mysticism and magic. When I chatted with Margot Berwin on Twitter, I discovered that she wrote her first draft while staying in the French Quarter.
When I further queried the author about her novel’s parallels to the Longfellow poem, Margot Berwin confessed that she had or read the poem. That totally blew my mind. Hers too I think. (Note: I love authors who respond on Twitter and chat with their readers. Makes me like them even more.)
Whether you are familiar with Evangeline or not, Scent of Darkness is more than a coming of age story. We can all relate to Eva as she traipses across the United States to discover herself.
Even though it’s only January, I’m declaring Scent of Darkness as one of my favorite books of 2013.
The book goes on sale tomorrow, January 29 so grab a copy and see if you agree with me.
I received a review copy of the book. All opinions are my own.