The Perfume Lover: A Personal History of Scent Paperback – March 19 2013
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- Publisher : Penguin Canada (March 19 2013)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0143184288
- ISBN-13 : 978-0143184287
- Item weight : 340 g
- Dimensions : 13.39 x 2.26 x 20.93 cm
- Customer Reviews:
"The Perfume Lover is a gorgeous romp through the history of perfume and a personal exploration of its role in Beaulieu's life as a woman and world class sensualist. In lush prose that is as evocative as its subject, Beaulieu describes the alchemy of perfume: its intriguing manufacture, its delicious seductions, and the potent mnemonic rhapsodies ignited by the mystery of olfaction. A thoroughly delectable and passionately intelligent read.” - Debra Ollivier, author of the national bestseller What French Women Know
About the Author
Denyse Beaulieu was born in Winnipeg, grew up in Montreal, and now lives in Paris, where she works as a translator. She is the author of Sex Game Book: A Cultural History of Sexuality. She is also the perfume editor for Citizen K and now devotes herself to smelling, analyzing, and reviewing perfumes for her bilingual blog, Grain de Musc.
Top review from Canada
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From the very beginning, I was rubbed the wrong way by the Québecoise author describing her accent as "rural" and talking about how she put a fake French accent in school to be "sophisticated". This is comparable from someone from Alabama inexplicably speaking with a posh London accent in her school. She spares no opportunity to bash her French Canadian origins and idolizing Paris as if she had escaped the armpit of the world. More on her fake French persona later...
The author paraphrased some passages from sources actually detailing the history of perfumes, and that is the only interesting part. Period.. The rest are personal anecdotes (where you can feel her pedantic and self-important personality) that she wrote with a synonym dictionary by her side to change every normal word into its most pretentious version. You can't help feeling like punching her in the face with anecdotes such as being checked out by a mechanic fixing her father's car and reminiscing: "He couldn't possibly read all the signs I'd accumulated on my body... the signs that said "intellectual, "sophisticated",... First I cringed, then I craved in... the disconcerting pleasure of being just-a-woman rather than a Parisian intellectual... capable of decoding Jaques Derrida before lunch and still have appetite left over for a nibble of Jaques Lacan...", or the more humble: "It was all Immanuel Kant's fault... I'd read his "Critique of Aesthetic Judgment in one sitting... and been struck down with such a violent fever I became delirious - my writer-lover said that was what happened when women like me were exposed to German philosophy." My level of cringe is through the roof only from having to type these passages into a review. I am halfway through the book and maybe there's been a page's worth of her actual experience of annoying the perfumer to death with her demanding nature after he nicely offered to craft a perfume based on some erotic memory of her hook-up in Seville with some rando in a park.
I made the mistake of looking her up on YouTube and hearing her fake Parisian accent (it's not even a Quebecoise adding a couple French words and intonation, she mysteriously developed a full new "Parisian" persona). I will not be able to finish the book because now I all can hear when I read is a voice-over of the text with her phony accent.
I give this 0,5 on 10. I guess if you have a high tolerance for bullsh*t you may be able to ignore the 97% of her self-important ramblings and learn maybe just a little bit about perfume.. but there are a bunch of other books that go straight to the point, like "Parfums de Legende" by Anne Davis and Bertrand Meyer-Stabley. Spare yourself a literary punch in the liver and skip this one.
Top reviews from other countries
The book sets its tone when of all the experiences the author seeks to capture - it is a night when as an apparent mid teen, if I understood her age accurately, she was willingly fondled by an exotic stranger in an exotic location. She then goes on to write primarily about her intimate relationships and conquests, all attributable to her irresistible allure, in language reminiscent of those Mills and Boons and Harlequin romance books that were popular in the Convent school that I attended, of which I read all of maybe five in total before deciding that Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison had far more interesting things to say. If I wish to read erotica, I will go for Anais Nin. I have no interest in other people's personal life, least of all someone who apparently hasn't gotten over their adolescent insecurities and is over compensating for same, well into middle age. I bought the book to read about the perfume creative process, and you Madam, have nothing to teach me in your flat pretentious segues on female sexuality, as regards Mary Magdalene.
And while I'm ranting, I may as well mention her ingraciousness towards the perfumer; her tasteless attempt to - shall we say "entice" the gentleman who gave her a tour of a perfume factory by using the book to declare her interest and insinuating that she might have a future opportunity to follow through; her ineptitude as a writer, despite authoring books other than this, articles, and a blog (that I frankly discarded reading after a few attempts, prior to the book); her presumption that she introduced a classically trained perfumer to the variations of a legendary classic perfume; her failure to recognise a material she brought to the perfumer and insisted he use - despite being a perfumer blogger, who gives seminars on how to smell fragrances - thereby accusing him of poor hygiene and trying to surreptitiously confirm her suspicion.
Only for one moment, does it occur to her that she is overbearing and meddlesome, and hindering the creative process rather than being a muse. The moment passes quickly, and she is soon back to fuming that the pro bono work on her scent doesn't take precedence over the perfumer's career and paid obligations. He gets his revenge though - the scent by her own admission, and that of various reviewers on various sites, apparently smells like anything but erotica. Perhaps she had to pad the book because he was ignoring her more thoroughly than she suspected? Either way I feel a rather guilty pleasure in her comeuppance, that the nun, who was my school principal, would look sternly down upon :D
P.S.: The info she presents on perfume history has been much better covered elsewhere in online blogs other than her own and in books by actual perfumers.It would be a shame if this were the be and end all of ones reading. Widen your search on Amazon to terms like "Fragrance" or "Aroma" or just the obvious "Perfume" under the Books department (you'll have to wade through various versions of the novel by that name under the last search though). I have literally bought hundreds of books here on Amazon as a hobby perfumer ranging from discussion of the aesthetic to the technical, and blogs abound that you need not follow slavishly but can dip into.
So I was really excited to learn more about some of the scientific aspects of perfumery and the history, and how fragrances are created and blended to evoke moods and feelings.
And I did find those parts of the book fascinating--- the history--- the discussion of chemicals--- all of that-- give me more.
But, Gawd! The author was so self absorbed I nearly couldn't slog through the book. I get that she's a writer, hence the vastly flowery and verbose style....and this IS her personal story....but I found myself so annoyed by her I was skipping over sections to get to what I thought of as " the good stuff". And all I kept hearing in my mind was " Wah wah.....Wah Wah Wah ...." Like Charlie Brown's teacher........
So, take it for what it's worth. I do recommend the book for its interesting factual material-- but be advised, you're going to want to fight off that unbearable urge to fling the book across the room.
This is less pronounced in the beginning of the book and deeply, deeply ingrained toward the end -- so much so that I found myself wanting to literally throw the book across the room. (But, I have a Kindle!)
I loved the historical bits at the beginning; I loved some of her imaginative and creative descriptions of the scents.
But as good as these are, I wouldn't subject myself to this woman again -- even if you offered me an original, unopened bottle of Jacques Fath's Iris Gris. (Or two!)