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Perfume: A Century of Scents Hardcover – 22 Oct 2015

4.8 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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  • Perfume: A Century of Scents
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  • Perfumes: The A-Z Guide
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  • The Secret of Scent: Adventures in Perfume and the Science of Smell
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Hutchinson (22 Oct. 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091954533
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091954536
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3.5 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 25,009 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

"A wonderful, well-informed read... Charming and illuminating... I loved it… if you're thinking about Christmas presents I would buy it..." (India Knight Spectator)

"Lizzie Ostrom’s entertaining romp through a century of perfumes, ten per decade from 1900 to 1999… This book is as delectable an artefact as the product it describesthe perfect accompaniment to a bottle of J’Adore in your stocking." (Suzi Feay Independent)

"A really enjoyable, fun book... a great stocking filler." (BBC Radio 2 Fact Not Fiction Book Club The Arts Show with Claudia Winkleman)

"Beautifully written and illustrated with a sumptuous cover, this would make a perfect gift." (Cathy Rentzenbrink Stylist)

"More social history than beauty book... the witty insights and fun, chatty style make this a lush treat or a gorgeous gift." (Alexandra Heminsley The Debrief)

Book Description

The incredible stories of 100 perfumes in all their fragrant glory – ten lovingly chosen scents for each decade of the twentieth century.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Perfume is more than a smell. That's the premise of the wonderful new book by Lizzie Ostrom, the unashamed scent aficionado whose alter ego, Odette Toilette, has provided London with some of the most thought-provoking and memorable fragrance-related events of recent years. Descriptions of smells do feature in her book. Of course they do; it would be strange if they didn't. But A Century Of Scents eschews the merit-assessing agenda of the Turin & Sanchez A-Z Guide and the 'documentary narrative' approach of the two Chandler Burr tomes in favour of cultural commentary. In Ostrom's hands - or should that be nose? - perfume is a mirror of its times: sometimes faithful; sometimes deliberately contrary; always worth peering into.

The structure of her witty, entertaining socio-scentual musings is simple: for each decade of the 20th century, she has chosen 10 scents which, in some way, encapsulate the concerns, ideals and mores of the years in which they were created. In other words, she doesn't aim to present a list of the best or most acclaimed fragrances, thereby giving herself the freedom to spring several surprises, including Impulse O2, Hai Karate and Mennen's Skin Bracer. It's a refreshing approach and even if it sometimes results in unfortunate omissions - I suspect Ostrom will spend at least 20 years in purgatory for snubbing Shalimar - it ensures that the book never slips into predictability.

Indeed, its lack of cliches is its most disarming and commendable attribute.
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Idiosyncratic choice of perfumes, no info on composition of chosen perfumes, a sort of history through perfumes. Unsatisfactory for perfume aficionados.
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When Odette Toilette (Lizzie Ostrom's nom de plume) first told me that she was writing a book about perfume I remember thinking, how will you get the character of this madwoman into print? Lizzie is anything but predictable, and she has made her reputation by taking perfume and tuning it on its head. Anyone who has witnessed her in action knows that her quirky style and approachable manner is what keeps you coming back for more. So, would this translate into a book?

There have many dry, dusty and pretentious books about perfume over the years which use language that "Countdown's Dictionary Corner" would struggle to understand, but this is not one of them. "Perfume: A Century of Scent" is a roller coaster ride through one hundred years of fragrance. The good, the bad and the downright ugly are all in here, and that is what makes the book such a compelling read. It was fascinating seeing some of the scents that I work with every day being given a totally new spin. I have heard EVERY Guerlain story a thousand times, but Lizzie manages to make everything sound fresh and new, and even educate this 'old rascal'.

Rather than just choose one hundred perfumes and write about them in depth, Lizzie cleverly sets her choices against the historical background of the time. You get one fragrance from each year, from 1900 to 1999, and you will be amazed at what she has selected. You've got the big hitters like Guerlain, Chanel and YSL, but room is also made for a few forgotten gems. I'm going to let you discover these yourself, because that is part of the fun of this book, but the fact that Lynx and Avon are bedfellows with Piver and Caron shows just how diverse Lizzie's selections are.
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I heard about this book on BbBC R4 Woman's Hour and thought I'd read it. I was surprised and delighted to find it was on Kindle. As a perfume lover - I don't leave the house without it - this book is a fascinating history of fragrances. A. Very good read and would make a lovely Christmas present for a woman, along with some perfume as well of course!
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This is a fantastic book for all fumeheads out there. Not only does it give an insightful view of the history of perfume manufacture and marketing over the course of the 20th century, but Lizzie Ostrom has written it with flair and humour - I absolutely love her writing style. This is no boring, dry, potted history of perfume but a witty and engaging jaunt through the history of so many famous ( and not so famous) perfume brands. If you love perfume passionately, then you must buy this book. I bought my copy as a Kindle edition to help while away long train commutes for work, but I love it so much, I have requested a hard copy as a Valentines Day gift from my other half. A total must buy!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great cover, text evoked so many memories, but from the adverts for this book I expected it to be more 'glitzy' inside. Would still recommend it to anyone who loves perfume.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the most wonderful books I have ever bought. A beautifully written history of scent, society and culture... engaging and amusing in equal measure. Will be buying another copy as a gift for a friend.
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