In France, vacationers divide themselves into ‘juilletistes’ and ‘aoûtiens’ depending upon whether they take summer holidays in July or August (generally for an entire month, bien sûr!). Since my birthday falls in August, this month is, and always will be, the ultimate holiday month for me, so I’m an ‘aoûtienne’ (feminine of aoûtien).
Here’s a list of favorite perfume books especially selected for summer reading by my perfumista friends — wherever in the world you might be.
The Perfume Lover: A Personal History of Scent by Denyse Beaulieu
St. Martin’s Press (March 19, 2013)
The Perfume Lover is a story within a story of life becoming art, in which Denyse Beaulieu, a Paris-based perfume critic of renown, recounts her personal adventures as ‘muse’ for perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour in the creation of ‘Seville à L’Aube’ for L’Artisan Parfumeur. Turns out, the inspiration of the fragrance (and the book!) is Denyse’s hot and steamy account of a single night’s love affair in the Spanish capital of ‘neroli’ (bitter orange). As The Perfume Lover develops, however, it becomes much more than a fascinating and page turning story, as Denyse’s brilliant prose educates the reader in fine details of perfume manufacturing, raw materials, procedures and the people that make it all happen.
Scent of Triumph: A Novel of Perfume and Passion by Jan Moran
St. Martin’s Griffin (March 31, 2015)
Another gripping page-turner, Scent of Triumph, spans the decade surrounding the Second World War, in the life and career of Danielle Bretancourt, a woman of extraordinary courage, spirit, and compassion, as she struggles to save and unite her family from Nazi occupied France and Poland, all the while founding a fragrance dynasty in Los Angeles. Beautifully researched and written with intricate historic and visual details, Jan creates such an admirable character in Danielle Bretancourt, the heroine of Scent of Triumph, that my only regret of the book was when I turned the last page.
Parfums Rares (Rare Perfumes) by Sabine Chabbert and Laurence Férat
Osmothèque Terrebleue Editions (March 2014)
From L’Osmothèque, the first perfume archive in history, (located just outside Paris in Versailles, n’est-ce pas !) comes an excellent round up of artistic ‘niche’ fragrances. Written by Sabine Chabbert and Laurence Férat, two outstanding Parisian perfume journalists, Parfums Rares renders homage to the pioneers of the, still young, artistic niche perfume movement. In the words of L’Osmothèque president, the perfumer Patricia de Nicolaï, “Rare Perfumes underlines a major breakthrough for our profession: the arrival, starting just over 20 years ago, of a handful of audacious perfume brands driven by the desire to create differently. This movement of ‘other’ [alternative] perfumery has shaken up a market dominated by big international groups and is the best thing that could ever happen to the perfume industry!”
The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro
Harper (May 14, 2013)
In The Perfume Collector, Kathleen Tessaro has written an historical perfume novel which deftly alternates between two different story lines – that of Eva, an impoverished immigrant who at the beginning of the book is a hotel maid in 1920s New York, and Grace, a reluctant socialite in 1950’s London. The weaving of the two stories presents and ultimately solves a mystery, all the while bringing to life the history of Madame Zed, the creator (nose) of the classic and famous scent ‘My Sin’.
The Mysteries of Perfume by Bettina Aykroyd
Editions du Vétiver (March 22, 2015)
Bettina, a Franco-British journalist based in Paris, introduces The Mysteries of Perfume as a means to ‘se mettre au parfum’, that is, to be initated into the language and rituals of perfume. In this, her debut perfume book, Bettina Aydroyd has created an introductory ‘text’ book for perfumery to help beginning perfume lovers better understand odors and fragrances as well as their history and creation.
Tilt 68 by Sarah Colton
Water Tower Books (2007)
And finally, my friends who have not yet read my own novel, Tilt 68, will be happy to know that it is now out in Kindle edition, and is available for free ($0.00!) during a limited time promotional offer. Though not specifically about perfume, this coming of age novel about college life in the late 60s — read, sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll — also contains numerous references to perfume usage, not surprising if you consider the powerful cocktail of those memorable and turbulent times.
May your holidays be happy and full of fragrances wherever you are!