Scent-sational: The Secret of Chanel No. 5 by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Sorry about the title.  I’m not really funny, or punny as the case may be.  Oi.

Do you like perfume?  I have a mixed relationship with the stuff.  On one hand, I love it. Every morning I relish spritz-ing on a bit of Coco Madmoiselle and having its delicate aroma envelop.  Unfortunately, I’m now so used to the smell that I sometimes forget its even on.  Yet, I enjoy that moment every morning. And every day there is a little less in the beautiful jar.

There’s also the difficulty of choosing your perfume.  You stand in front of the perfume counter, either at a Sephora or in a department store, and arbitrarily select a pretty looking bottle.  Let’s be honest, we’re all choosing these scents based on bottle, brand and name.  Does anyone really know off the top of their head what “Deep and true: the character of cedarwood, the fullness of amber, the embrace of musk,” smells like?

By the way, if you guessed that snippet described Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue, you’re correct.  And you understand perfume way better than I do.

You may be wondering, based off of my luke-warm feelings towards perfume in general, why I decided to read The Secret of Chanel No. 5.  My mother, for some reason, got an advanced reader copy a while back and decided to give the book to me.  I needed something to read and the book was there.

The Secret of Chanel No. 5 stays true to describing the life of the perfume, which was both my favorite and least-favorite aspect.  If you don’t know much about Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel and want to learn about her, this is not the book to read.  If you know a bit about Chanel, you should do just fine following the chronology.  In every sense, the book narrates the journey of the perfume.

Surprisingly, the scent is a very worthy the biography.  The majority of the story takes place during the twenties and the second world war, but the book spans from Chanel’s early childhood in the 1890’s to the twenty-first century giving a fully fleshed out image of how Chanel No. 5 has become a modern icon.

While the book is well-written and the story surprisingly compelling, the pace is a bit awkward moving quick at points and slow at others.  In order to get the most out of the story the reader really needs to know a bit of background abou Chanel.

But at least you’ll learn that Chanel was a nazi, if you didn’t already.

What’s your favorite perfume?  Do you even wear it?


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