I was first recommended this book around a decade ago by a colleague but couldn’t find a copy of it at the time, and so over the years I’ve kept my eye out for so I could snatch up a copy as soon as it appeared. Having since got my hands on a copy, I’m now wondering if a ten year build of anticipation was always going to end it disappointment as I found this to be completely underwhelming.
This really shouldn’t have been the case. A book whose plot spans hundreds of years complete with manifestations of Pan, some nymphs, a cast of other less godly but no less colourful characters, and an absurd outlook really should have appealed to me. But I found the absurdity trying, the characters flat, and the description on the back of the book incredibly misleading.
Jitterbug Perfume sorta starts with the story of Alobar, an ancient king who decides when it’s his allocated time to die that he really doesn’t want to. Setting out on a quest to find the secret to eternal life, Alobar meets a partner in incense maker Kudra and makes a friend of the god Pan. Alobar and Kudra spend centuries living simple lives that are occasionally interrupted by having to flee villages due to not ever ageing but as time moves on and Pan finds himself believed in less and less, he loses more of his corporeal form, leaving Alobar and Kudra to attempt to take him to the New World. But they’ll need a very strong perfume to cover up his stink and keep him incognito…
Centuries later various perfumiers are hard at work trying to capture an elusive scent, found in an ancient bottle, while also getting entangled with the Last Laugh Foundation which is hoping to find the secret to eternal life.
Whether it was my brain (I’m still struggling to concentrate on reading) or the contents itself, instead of enjoying the adventures of Alobar, the genius waitress Priscilla or the New Orleans perfumiers, I found this to actually be a bit of a chore and the characters – probably more accurately described as cartoonish stereotypes (especially in the case of those like Wiggs Dannyboy who speaks a version of Irish that is normally only heard from cartoon leprechauns) tiresome and unfunny.
It may be that my bad mood influenced my enjoyment, so I’d be interested to hear what others who’ve read it liked about this book.