What an unusual book! Someone recommended this to me, and it really is just a collection of reviews of perfumes. But I saw on the jacket a number of rave reviews from other authors & the press, which promised something rather special:
” One of the best books I have ever read… dazzlingly good” India Knight
“I loved it and bought it for all my friends. I have to say that this is certainly my favourite non-fiction book ever and is very likely my favourite book of all time! If I had to take only one book with me onto a desert island for an indefinite time, it would be this one.” Joanne Harris
“As if a light has been switched on in a murky room” Philip Hensher
And who picked it as their favourite book of 2008? None other than Hilary Mantel.
So I knew I was onto something interesting when I opened it – and oh my, it really is wonderful. It lists almost every possible perfume and gives a 2 word review (eg. “root-beer antiseptic”), stars out of five and a longer review. these longer reviews are where the real joy of the book begins. Bad perfumes get the most scathing drubbings I have ever read. A. A. Gill has nothing on these writers. Favourites however get the most glorious soaring write-ups, with fabulous comparisons to landscapes, foods & emotional states to help us poor mortals understand the complexity of the smells the authors can detect.
Interestingly, if you’ve read The Emperor of Scent (a best-selling biography a few years back), one author of this book is is the subject of it.