REVIEW: The Book of Everlasting Things

“That day, two hearts broke, like the fragments of a newly divided land.”

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“The paper boat of your memory has drowned in the river of this heart.”

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“Like the stories in the book, this perfume struck the precise chords of history, legend, mythology, magic, poetry and delight.”

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“Lahore feels at a standstill, like we have paused on the plateau of some uncertain hope.”

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Samir’s family are Hindu perfumers. Firdaus’s family are Muslim calligraphers. Both families are living in Lahore in the late 1930s. Samir has been learning the art of perfuming under his uncle’s direction. Firdaus’s father is a bit progressive and is teaching his daughter calligraphy amongst other things. The two cross paths when Firdaus’s mother wants a perfume and they offer custom labels. Samir’s father thinks, better yet, let’s have Samir learn this skill. He spends his time learning both arts and the two children fall for one another. They spend years exchanging secret letters and hope to be married despite their religious differences. Unfortunately, they are coming of age as India is gaining independence from Britain and their home city is partitioned into Pakistan. Firdaus’s mother uses this to press her liberal husband to bring Firdaus back home and marry one of her Muslim cousins. At the same time, Samir’s family’s livelihood is destroyed and he must flee. He ends up in France where his uncle learned the art of perfumery in the war and spends years tracing his uncle’s life.

I learned a ton about a piece of history that I had minimal previous knowledge about. This story balances the equal joy of independence and a true homeland balanced with the horror of not being able to live in a place you have always known due to an arbitrary line. You feel awful for Firdaus and Samir who bridged the gap of their differences and in another place or time may have lived happily ever after. There is lots of knowledge and emotion here for sure. The writing is beautiful, hence all the pull quotes. That said, this book was probably 100 pages too long. The beginning gives you far too much detail on perfuming and calligraphy. Those passages are beautiful but too much for the average person. If that were trimmed as well as some tightening of the uncle’s journals and this would have been a much better reading experience.

Thanks to Flatiron books via Netgalley for the gifted access via Netgalley. All opinions above are my own.

Published by openmypages

I am the Vice President of Clinical Affairs for a medical device company where my job is to promote the utility of the device to doctors. I have science and business degrees and have editorial experience in medical communications. In college, I served as an Editorial Assistant for a healthcare communications company and have served on two editorial boards for peer-reviewed journals. In my free time, I always have a book in my hand... or two or three! On average, I read 20 books a month. I have looked to combine two of my skill sets to review on Goodreads and promote books on Instagram that I love to other readers. I'm open to partnering with publishers as an influencer for book tours, giveaways etc.

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