The Perfume Garden 5

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The past and the present converge.

Emma’s new house is where Freya stayed during the war. In fact, it is the house where Rosa was. We learn that having learnt about Jordi’s death, Rosa agrees to marry his brother, Vicente, for her baby’s sake. Vicente is quite a nasty man, treating her like a slave, belittling his late brother in front of Rosa, and even cheating on her. I think Rosa made a terrible mistake marrying him. Besides, Rosa, who believes she has a gift, states she hasn’t felt Jordi is gone. Is Jordi dead or not? Besides, when Tom visits Freya to say goodbye, he tells her that the man who he treated and was called Jordi del Valle wasn’t the one he has seen in the photograph in Rosa’s house. So if Jordi is alive, what is going to happen when he returns home to find his girl married to his brother?

In 2001 Emma has met Luca de Santangel, whose grandmother Macu lived with Rosa and Freya in 1937. The woman seems to have a bit of a shock when she first sees Emma. I wonder if that is because she resembles someone from her past. I still think that maybe the baby Rosa is expecting in the parts of the past is Emma’s mother, and Freya took the baby to England for some reason. Emma must look like her mother, and that is why Macu was astonished when she met her. Macu claims she and Emma have lots to talk about, but she says that Emma should talk to Freya first, but so far Freya hasn’t wanted to talk about the past. What is the secret she holds so zealously? Apart from the past, it is obvious that there is an instant attraction between Luca and Emma, but her pregnancy complicates thins, and she feels she needs to concentrate on her baby and the business she wants to set up. Luca is going to help her with her new project, so that means they will see a lot of each other.

I am enjoying the novel. However, I have a few issues about the stereotypes and inaccuracies that are scattered around the novel. One of the mistakes that foreign writers always make is in regard surnames. When women marry in Spain, they don’t take their husband’s surnames but keep their maiden ones all their lives. So in fact, everybody has the same name all their lives regardless if you are a man or woman. And this is a mistake that appears in the book. Rosa is called Del Valle after marrying Vicente del Valle, and Macu is also de Santangel like her husband Ignacio. The only reason why a woman has the same family name as her husband is because both their fathers happen to have the same name.

Another thing that Luca mentions which I think is untrue is about drinking. He claims that Emma will never see a Spaniard drunk, and he is also shocked about having seen women in London totally drunk. Unfortunately, what he says is not true. Unfortunately, men and women get drunk in Spain, and in recent times drinking is a growing problem among young people. The only thing that might be a bit different is that British people have a reputation to drink a lot in just a few hours, but even so, I think that also happens for Spaniards. In Spain there is also a tendency to drink while eating, but that is not always true as young people now drink more and more just for the sake of drinking. So things are changing.

Another thing that is not totally true is about Luca claiming that men in Spain are old-fashioned and chivalrous. I can’t deny that there is still chauvinism in Spain, but this is not true in all cases. Things have changed for the better, and even though there are still reactionary views in this respect, women nowadays are more independent and gender traditional roles have changed.

Another thing that I find odd is that when Luca turns the car radio on, he selects flamenco music. It is true that there are radio stations specialized in this kind of music, but in general, people listen to pop or rock music while driving. It is as if people in Scotland listened to bagpipe music all the time. Besides, the characters come from Valencia, and even though I have never been to Valencia myself, I doubt there is a big tradition to listen to flamenco music.

Apart from these things that niggle me, I find the book intriguing, and I like the historic parts. Much has been said about the Spanish Civil War, but even though it happened decades ago, it is still a sore point here in Spain.

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