Smell by Radhika Jha

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A richly imagined novel set in Paris about a young Indian woman with an extraordinary sense of smell.

Leela Patel is sent to live with relatives in Paris after her father is killed in a Nairobi riot. Her mother takes Leela's two little brothers to England. Alone and suddenly transplanted, Leela must reinvent herself and adjust to this foreign place with its foreign language, as she works in her uncle's Indian grocery. She uses her beauty, as well as her uncanny sense of smell, to enter the social, business, and culinary worlds of Paris high society. But her feelings of loss of identity are overwhelming, and Leela soon becomes unmoored, moving from man to man in a series of unsatisfying and often brutal relationships. The exceptional sense of smell that made her a chef of some celebrity has now become her nemesis. Smell traces Leela's journey back to wholeness.

A bestseller when first published in India in 1999, this novel is an impressive and metaphorically astute debut.


About Radhika Jha

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Radhika Jha lives in Delhi, India
Published June 1, 2001 by New York, Soho Press, 2001. 304 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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When Leela is thrown out (after revealing, in a fit of anger, how her uncle entertains his female customers), she’s fortunate enough to be taken in by a glamorous, well-connected model who refers to Leela as her “Indian friend.” Leela then finds a position as an au pair—and of course also a posit...

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Publishers Weekly

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Leela Patel, the young heroine of Jha's arresting first novel, endures a stifling sense of dislocation caused by a series of emotional blows.

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