Perfume and Books

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About two months ago, I’ve read a post on perfume blog where the lady described how she perceived perfume lovers.  “Bookish” was one of the attributes she used to describe some of the commonalities between perfume lovers and perfumistas. I agreed with her, because I have also noticed the fact that a lot of perfume bloggers have the love for books in common.  As in every situation, we cannot generalise. That made me think about finding out if the same goes for book lovers. I, for once will tell you I have a love for fragrances, scents and other fragrant pleasures. I find pleasure in anything that smells good: perfume, the smell of books, the scent of freshly picked roses, good food, the smell of earth just after rain and scented candles.  The latter I love using when I read, my favourite being jasmine.  I love burning jasmine scented candles –  makes me feel comfortable and calm, just the atmosphere I want around me when I read.

When reading The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, there was a quote that sparked my scent loving interest: “I stepped into the bookshop and breathed in that perfume of paper and magic that strangely no one had ever thought of bottling.”

The same with, when I read Sparkles, my guilty pleasure book: “Chanel N°19, the unmistakable scent of money”.  A book I absolutely loved reading, and although it may look like a teeny bopper novel it really isn’t. It one of the funniest fiction I have read and it plays off in France and Russia. The story is about betrayal, most of all.

 book and white perfume bottle

Buying scents has stopped being only about smelling nice for me. It’s become research, “the story behind”, what the creator hoped to achieve with creating this particular scent and assess if they got it right (on me, at least). I also must note that I don’t particularly waste my time with celebrity scents, I have a love for ones that were created in the 1920’s, they have history and character. That particular era is fascinating to me, the same way as I find the literature of that time fascinating – in the classics and historical fiction.  I used to write about them too, see below for an excerpt of my review of Bois des Iles, a 1926 classic from Chanel, a winter favourite.

“Although woody fragrances are predominantly perceived as masculine, Bois des Iles is a beautiful feminine woody fragrance that smells luxurious and enveloping. The woody notes are softened by a sweet floral bouquet that lends the fragrance its feminine air, while at the same time the soft vanilla, amber and sandalwood dry down gives the fragrance its warmth. I find this fragrance a comfort scent – it makes me feel elegant, calm and warm. The facets of this fragrance are stunning – the woody notes, the floral heart and even the crisp citrus opening. Wearing this fragrance is redolent of strolling into a beautifully sunlit autumn forest…”

I have decided to read more books about scents and fragrances, including perfumes. One of my favourite movies include the film adaptation of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. Not a lot of people have seen the movie, as it was never an overly commercial release. I have for some reason not read the book yet, but I want too. The story is about a boy Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, who had a profound gift for the sense of smell and learns the art of making perfume from a well-known perfumer in Paris.  He later becomes obsessed with smell, in such a way that he started creating perfumed oils from any objects he could think of. Until one day when he decides to create the ultimate perfume – the scent of a woman.  How does he do that? He uses women! Do you know how perfume oils are created? If so, that’s what he did with the women! Terrifying and absolutely cringe-worthy, but the movie was great and apparently the book too.

perfume - story of a murderer

Speaking of the “scent of a woman”, another book I would love to read is The Secret of Chanel N°5. One of my absolutely favourite scents and one with a lot of history behind it. Coco Chanel’s quest to create the perfect scent for a woman, the book is about Coco Chanel’s life and about the history of the scent itself. This is on my list of non-fiction I would like to read. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction and this (amongst others) are now on my list to read. Apart from Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, I am also considering reading Scent of Darkness – a fiction about the mythology of perfume.

So, do you also love fragrances and scent?

And will you perhaps also consider reading fiction (or non-fiction) that focuses on scents and fragrant pleasures?

Image sources: here, here and here

  • I wish I could be enthusiastic about scents but they seem to have exactly the opposite effect on me to the one they do on you. Only yesterday my god daughter was saying how much she would like to work in a chain of shops we have in the UK called Lush. They sell heavily scented bath preparations. I cross the road to get as far away from them as I can:(

    • I know Lush and yes you can smell the shop 5 shops away! The first time I went in there I was gasping for breath. However some of their bath goodies are really lovely (I have tried a few).

      I do have a love for a fine crafted and elegant scent. Do you like the smell of old book stores or an old book perhaps? There are some old books I can literally sit and smell for 10 minutes!

      • Yes, books are different and new mown grass and wallflowers are addictive:)

        • You see, I love all sensory pleasures. To me, its all about the sense of smell and if someone can bottle the smell of books I would buy it! 🙂

    • Anna2053

      I’ve read The Perfum, it is a good story and well written also. It is a little while since I read it, but is the kind of novel I recommend because is something you really want to know what happens at the end.
      Sometimes, when I feel a little blue I go and smell my perfume, it could sound odd but is so pleasant, I recover my cheerfulness.

      • I should still read it. I understand completely about perfume being able to cheer you up. Hence I love it so much

        • Anna2053

          And for me “woody” scents work better, and if the weather is a little hot “floral” fragrances make a good job.

          I wonder if women have one perfume that consider unforgettable.

          • Some women do have signature scents. I, on the other hand don’t because there’s too many I like. However I do have a favourite, that I love more than most of my others. I like woody and chypre scents for winter time and I mostly prefer floral scents..

  • I *do* love fragrances and scents. I guess you could say I even “collect” perfume – it stemmed from my dad always bringing me back a new perfume every time he went to Europe to visit family (so once or twice a year) and has now grown into quite the collection. Some of them are not scents for me, but I love looking at and smelling all the pretty bottles.

    I love scented candles and I absolutely love the smell of old books and old book stores. This is why I would never be able to give up physical books. This post made me think of the book Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins…have you read it? It wasn’t really a book for me, I have to say. Anyway…the movie you mentioned sounds really good though!

    • Wow, a perfume collection! I don’t really have a big collection, but I a few lovely ones. What I would like to is have a few niche or antique perfumes, but that would require a trip to France 🙂 I don’t trust e-bay etc.. You are a lucky girl to have received some scents back from your dad’s travels.

      Scented candles are lovely. I once read a short story while lying in the bath and burning candles. It’s the experience, it relaxes me. I do have a kindle, but I promise you I read more physical books than e-books. I went absolutely crazy in a second-hand bookstore recently where I found some nice vintage finds, unfortunately I couldn’t buy them all!

      I haven’t read that book yet, I will check it out on Goodreads. The movie is very artsy, but those are the types of movies I like. Watch the movie and see how you like it, I’m sure you will find the dvd somewhere.

  • Isi

    I have read Perfume, the story of a murderer that I liked very much, but not the rest, which seem interesting, indeed.
    I have never thought about books about perfumes!!

    • Well if you think the book was good, then I definitely should consider reading it. I loved the movie!

  • I probably will not end up reading a fictional/nonfictional book on scents/perfume unless a few trusted friends were SOOOOO adamant I do so!

    But I think that we might love perfumes because of our love of physical books, even if we do also love our e-readers. Part of the physical book love is the scent of books. For instance, just last week (twice actually) I caught my husband, out of the corner of my eye, sniffing his book. You know, the love of the new book smell.

    • I think it would probably be easier for me to read a non-fiction about smells. However I have heard people say “Perfume” is a good book, I’ve seen the movie so I imagine what the book must be like. I take it you referring to me and Allison again? 😉

      I should have called the title “Scents and Books”, because what I really meant was scents in general. That’s where my love for perfume started. It was never so much about perfume hence I collect a few carefully selected ones, but I know a few others. I think the smell of books might be one of my favorite smells!! A new book is lovely, but somehow I can sit and smell an old book even longer. How I wish they would really bottle the smell of books and bookstores! I would use the candle in my study…

  • I never would have made this connection on my own – but you are completely right!

    • Good to hear! What’s your favorite smell?

  • Interesting post Melinda. If you haven’t read Perfume then you should really really soon. It oozes smells though not always pleasant ones. I’m a kindred spirit in aversion to celebrity scents. Most smell gross and are hugely overpriced.

    • Thanks, Karen. It’s nice to hear that Perfume is actually a good book. Yes I stay away from celebrity scents, I choose my selections carefully 🙂

  • There is nothing like the smell of a good book and, while this may sound funny, the smell I love the most in a book is old paper back Louis L’Amour novels. They take me back to a time in my childhood filled with adventure between the pages and not a lot of adult responsibility just yet. Love that smell. Great article!!!

    • Thanks 🙂

      That’s the thing about smells – they leave a scent memory, that when we smell them again it takes us back to the past. You are making me curious about the Louis L’Amour novels! Book scents are my favorite! Maybe that’s why I like these oldish type perfumes because the scents are nostalgic.

      • Louis L’Amour is what I call a weekend read, nothing amazing, so much fun! He’s pretty much all westerns. I like the Sackett stories the best. You’ve made me want to go smell some old perfumes!! 🙂

        • I have a feeling it won’t be easy to find those books!

          Go smell them 😉 which ones do you like? I should have mentioned above that I love the smell of good filter coffee too, which I’m making and going to have quite a few cups while curling up with my book (the weather is a bit cold today)

          • Coffee and books are the best. You should be able to find any Louis L’Amor book in any half-price book store. They shouldn’t be hard to find. 🙂

          • I will try my best 🙂

          • Go for it!

  • What a great post!
    It’s a goal of mine to one day mix essential oils and make my own scent.

    PS Your blog is gorgeous too!

    • Thank you 🙂
      Do go ahead and try it, it might be interesting. It’s definitely not as easy as people think it is, might be a good challenge! 🙂

  • And what about Scent of Triumph? I’m just starting it, and it sounds very promising. high rating on Goodreads. published last year. here is the synopsis: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13607129-scent-of-triumph

    • I haven’t read this one, but I”m sure I’ve seen it before. Going to check it out on goodreads, thanks for the recommendation.

  • I adore both books and perfume, so I’d love to read books about perfume.

    I actually picked up a huge, hard cover, nonfiction book called something like “The Story of Perfume” at the Exclusive Books warehouse sale last September – it’s really a fascinating read!

    • I missed that sale! Where did you go? Exclusive books and I are really great friends – not good for my pocket! 🙂

  • OMG, Perfume: The story of a murderer sounds real good, so nouveau. The type of movie that I would watch. Why have you never told me about it? Would also really love to get my hands on the book 🙂

    • Oops! Remind me to give you the DVD 🙂

  • Great post. I never thought of it like that but I love scents, whether it’s a new book, a scented candle [I actually just bought a new one yesterday; “Sugared Apple.”] and when I read books I like when it brings the senses fourth, especially smell.

    • Thank you. Scents are great – for mind, body and soul. I love scented candles, especially white floral ones. I think I should buy a fruity one, you’ve tempted me 🙂

  • One of my fav also: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.

    “Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.”

    “He still had enough perfume left to enslave the whole world if he so chose. He could walk to Versailles and have the king kiss his feet. He could write the pope a perfumed letter and reveal himself as the new Messiah. He could do all this, and more, if he wanted to. He possessed a power stronger than the power of money, or terror, or death – the invincible power to command the love of mankind. “

    • I have only ever seen the movie of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer and loved it. I must still read the book though.

      Thanks for sharing those quotes! Is it from the book? Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      • From the book, but still not yet read the book, seen the movie though….:)

        • Did you enjoy the movie? I want to read the book sooner or later 🙂

          • Ohh yes, movie is wonderful, griping.
            One of the quotes which I liked:
            “He possessed the power. He held it in his hand. A power stronger than the power of money or the power of terror or the power of death: the invincible power to command the love of mankind. There was only one thing that power could not do: it could not make him able to smell himself.”

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  • I’ve always wanted to read Perfume, since I saw the film before even knowing the book existed. I’ve heard that it’s actually quite good!

    • I’ve heard that as well. I STILL haven’t read the book, yet this post was March last year. Shameful…!

  • Great discussion! If you’re looking for other books on perfume, The Perfect Scent is a great nonfiction book about the way two different perfumes were developed and The Perfume Collector is beautiful fiction book with a story that includes many descriptions of perfumes.

    • Thanks for the recommendations! I’ve had The Perfume Collector recommended to me before (by many people) and I can’t believe that I forgot to pick up these books…

  • I’ve never thought about it much, but I do love scents. Freshly mown grass, ink, rain, the scent of thawing earth in early spring, jasmine candles…

    Oddly enough, I just bought perfume for the first time ever (not counting the numerous Bath & Body Words fragrance sprays of my adolescence). I can’t stop smelling my wrists! Jasmine, orange, and patchouli, mmmmm.

    • You see! Of course you knew that I am aware of your love for jasmine… 🙂 I think you should burn some of the candles next time you have a reading break. It is rather cold on your side of the world, so that would be perfect for added warmth.

      We don’t have Bath & Body Works here, but I know about it and we also have fragrance mists etc which I have used in high school. Which perfume did you purchase? It sounds lovely. I love jasmine, bergamot and patchouli 🙂

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