Jan Moran’s Scent of Triumph is an engrossing historical tale of a woman’s fortunes in World War II.
The main character, Danielle Bretancourt Von Hoffman, travels via ocean liner from New York to England. When she and her husband Max make the ocean journey, she is pregnant with their second child. In the course of the journey, the Nazis threaten to sink the ship. What unfolds made me think of the end of the movie Titanic. Yet Scent of Triumph is just getting warmed up.
Danielle’s family has a long history of success in the perfume business – success that has provided Danielle with a privileged and sheltered background, as well as an accurate and discriminating sense of smell. She is known as a “nose.” This contributes to her success.
In the course of the story, Danielle works for the French underground, escapes from the Germans, goes to Hollywood, and socializes with several major celebrities of the day. The overarching themes of the novel are war and its effects on family, home and economic security; loss; and courage and survival in the face of adversity – themes that are so relevant to today’s society.
Danielle spends much of the book trying to reunite her family. Her development into a strong and courageous woman makes this a fascinating read. The story is well-crafted with believable characters. Moran engages all five senses in her vivid and realistic descriptions of the many settings of the novel. The historical details are well researched, and give the reader a feeling of actually being in the story. As far as I could tell (not having lived through World War II myself), Moran accurately portrays the World War II experience.
I heartily recommend this book to both lovers of historical fiction and general fiction readers. And I can’t wait to see the movie.