Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins
Like a lot of nerdy and ungainly girls, I went through a Tom Robbins phase in high school. His playful love of women appealed to us earnest and hopeful types.
Then I got sick of his writing style and abandoned him completely for 20 years.
So when my book club picked Jitterbug Perfume for its next selection, I was looking forward to revisiting my old friend—though I was slightly worried that the pages might engulf me back into some tedious adolescent throes.
I needn’t have worried. I found Tom Robbins to be as enjoyable as ever, and nothing about his work compelled me to gnash my teeth and write bad poetry.
Story: Ancient Bohemian king Alobar escapes certain cultish death and sets off on a mission to extend his life indefinitely, accompanied by suttee escapee and love interest Kudra. Also, modern-day perfumers battle it out to recreate a mesmerizing scent that will earn them eternal fragrance fame.
Themes: Perfume, immortality, and beets. Yep, you read that right.
Writing: This book’s themes are compelling, but people really read Robbins for his writing. And it is good—very good—intricate and witty like few other authors out there. His sense of humor, in fact, is the closest to my husband’s I’ve ever encountered on this earth—though (rather like my husband’s punny episodes) it is relentless, best in smaller doses. By the end of Jitterbug Perfume I definitely needed a break.
Best thing about it: Alobar’s journey is captivating from the first pages.
Worst thing about it: The modern-day characters are never fully developed. They feel more like distractions from the main plot.