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The Scent of Rosa's Oil
In 1910 Genoa (Italy) young Rosa struggles to find her place in the world. A special perfume will help her quest.
Translated into German, Greek, Italian
Genoa, Italy, 1910. In the heart of the caruggi, the colorful, narrow streets that border the busy industrial port, is the Luna—the brothel where redheaded Rosa was born and grew up lovingly cared for by Madam C, a surrogate mother, and her girls. Confused about love and relationships, marginalized by the neighborhood children and stigmatized, Rosa becomes a dreamer early in life. The ships coming and going in the port fascinate her, and her biggest desire is to be able to hop on one of them some day and go to America. During one of her outings to the port, Rosa meets Isabel, and old Costa Rican woman who distills oils from flowers in two dark rooms she inhabited for sixty years. The strange smells and smoke that emanate from those rooms have deemed Isabel a witch to the locals, but only Rosa sees a lonely, tender woman with a passion for making beautifully-scented oils. When a quarrel with Madam C forces sixteen-year-old Rosa to leave the Luna, Isabel’s distillery becomes her new home. Enchanted by the intoxicating fragrances around her, Rosa becomes Isabel’s apprentice, learning the art of extracting essences from flowers and that for each person exists one and only one “perfect oil”—a unique mixture of fragrances that matches the qualities of one’s skin and affects people. As she searches for and finds her perfect oil, Rosa falls in love with Renato, the charismatic political leader of the longshoremen. He’s heard ugly rumors about Rosa and her life at the Luna and can’t seem to see past them. Undaunted, Rosa sets out to win Renato with the stratagem of disguise and the power of her perfect oil. She succeeds, but shortly afterwards a twist-of-fate pulls Rosa and Renato apart. As Rosa embarks on a journey to find the seemingly lost Renato, she must come to terms with her childhood dreams, her origins, and Madam C.
Rosa's first and only haircut had become a legend at the Luna and one of Madam C's favorite anecdotes about Rosa's life. She'd tell that story whenever a new girl arrived, on birthdays and anniversaries, and every time someone stared at Rosa's curls in awe. Rosa was born bald, the story went, with a smooth, healthy scalp that shone like a rainbow in the sunlight, and stayed bald for two months before her hair started to grow at an amazing speed.