MY PURPLE SCENTED NOVEL
Parker Sparrow and Jocelyn Tarbet have been friends since university. Both ambitious, both aspiring novelists, they begin more or less on the same footing. Fast-forward to middle-age, and Parker's relative obscurity has as its flip Jocelyn's place in the hearts and minds of the British public. Presented with an opportunity to redress the balance, Parker, unflinchingly, takes it.
Written to accompany 'L'image Volée,' (or 'The Stolen Image') at Fondazione Prada in 2016, an exhibition which sought to question “the boundaries between originality, conceptual inventiveness and the culture of the copy, [focusing] on theft, authorship, annexation and the creative potential of such pursuits”, Ian McEwan's My Purple Scented Novel takes the form of a confession – notably not an admission of guilt – about one such instance of authorial appropriation.
Short, sharp and wryly observed, find it online at The New Yorker. Alternatively, let McEwan himself read it to you here.
THE SCENT OF GREEN PAPAYA
It's 1951 in Saigon, Vietnam, and ten year old Mui arrives in the city to commence work as the servant to a wealthy family. A story in two halves, the first concerns itself with Mui's initiation into her role within the household. The second, ten years later, with the unfolding of romantic love.
Quiet, soothing, utterly beautiful to watch, The Scent of Green Papaya deals not at all with the wider politcal landscape taking place within the dates that it is set. Instead it focuses on the daily, the domestic. There are no huge themes. No surprises. It touches on grief, on tenderness, on grace. It whispers of the subjugation of women. Its characters are almost cartoonishly fairytale-esque. It is a gentle breeze, stirring not much, but refreshing in all the ways it should.
You wouldn't imagine that Christine Nagel, head 'nose' at Hermès, would include in her list an English bluebell wood, when asked by The Telegraph to write about her top ten scent-filled destinations. But that she did and it has us hankering after a visit this April.
Growing in wooded areas, in shade or dappled sunlight, the wild bluebell flowers for about a month in early spring each year, from mid-March to early-May. If in London, you don't have to travel far to catch sight, and scent, of one of those distinctive carpets of blue. Browse the National Trust's list of Bluebells in London and the South East to find one you'd like to visit. Our favourite? Sheffield Park and Garden in East Sussex. If it takes your fancy, arrive on the Bluebell Railway and don't forget to ask at the reception to find out where the blooms are looking at their best on the day.