Rose (The Book of Lost Fragrances, 2012, etc.) fails to breathe new life into her latest offering, which includes themes and characters introduced in previous stories and rehashes discussions about reincarnation, Jungian psychology and olfactory sensations.
Mythologist Jac L’Etoile, a woman with a troubled past, is contacted by former fellow mental patient Theo Gaspard, who also has a troubled past. Theo’s family home is on the Isle of Jersey, and Theo invites Jac to the island to view some mysterious discoveries he’s made. Against her therapist’s wishes, Jac journeys to the island, where she meets Theo’s elderly aunts, both with—what else?—troubled pasts, and Ash, Theo’s estranged and, yes, troubled brother. In the 1850s, the Isle of Jersey becomes Victor Hugo’s residence-in-exile and Hugo, troubled by his daughter Didine’s death, becomes obsessed with trying to communicate with her through séances. He also smokes hashish, which could explain his claim that he communicates with many of history’s greatest souls, including Jesus and Shakespeare. One evening, Hugo meets Fantine, a mysterious, troubled young woman from a family of perfumers who recently lost a child, and he becomes obsessed with her. Switch to 56 B.C., when a tribe of Druids also occupies the Isles—right on the property belonging to Theo. Owain, the high priest, his wife and child live a pretty normal Druid life until he and the other priests have troubling visions that they believe Owain must fulfill in order to save the tribe. Meanwhile, in 1855, Hugo’s having his own problems: He’s wrangling with the Shadow of the Sepulcher, aka Lucifer, who’s made him a pretty sweet offer. And then there’s Jac in present-day life: She’s suffering dizzy spells, being bombarded by different smells, experiencing overwhelming feelings of dread and calling out weird names. One of the aunts ties a ribbon around her wrist to keep Jac from slipping away to heaven-knows-where, and it seems to do the trick. As the author switches back and forth between the very distant past, the sort-of-distant past and the present, she finally connects all the troubled characters (long after the reader’s managed to do so) and brings the book to a close—but not before Jac, her hosts and therapists have protracted discussions about reincarnation and the collective unconscious.
Much déjà vu about nothing.