Every minute, someone buys an Art Deco-inspired, amber-hued bottle of Chanel No. 5 - to the tune of more than half a million bottles a year. Considering that nearly 90 years have passed since No. 5’s creation, this statistic alone makes a compelling case for the perfume’s stature as the world’s most famous.
However, its cultural impact might be even more staggering than its business success: Andy Warhol’s silk-screened version of bottle helped to make its image iconic; Mitch Ryder’s “Devil in a Blue Dress” famously wore it; and, when Marilyn Monroe was asked what she wore to bed, she replied, with more than a hint of flirtation: “Why, Chanel No. 5 of course.” Adding to the perfume’s prestige, some of the most glamorous actresses of our age, including Catherine Deneuve, Nicole Kidman, and Audrey Tautou, have been its official face.
We all know the story of Coco Chanel, but how much do we actually know about her signature perfume - a fragrance that has enjoyed remarkable success for nearly a century? The Secret of Chanel No. 5 is the story of Tilar J. Mazzeo’s far-ranging and often quixotic search to discover the answer - and of the fascinating detours into the history of perfume that come from asking the question: What is the secret behind No. 5’s creation, iconic status, and extraordinary success?
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An interesting read for perfume lovers
I enjoyed delving deeper into the story of the world's most famous perfume. It was interesting to learn how it came about, and the behind the scenes wrangling that went on for decades. It isn't a particularly scholarly read and light on detail in some parts. Unfortunately the narrator was extremely irritating to the extent that I couldn't concentrate on the story.
The narrator had a very annoying way of pronouncing French words. Whenever she pronounced a French word it sounded bizarre, forced and affected. As others have noted she repeatedly pronounces Coco like cuckoo. Very jarring and I was constantly braced waiting for the next French word.
In summary this is a great book if you like perfume and like finding out how perfumes are created. There are much better biographies of Coco Chanel herself but this book's focus is more about the perfume and the intense relationship the designer had with it. However the story is somewhat ruined by the narration.
- Lord Copper