The Secret of Chanel No. 5 by Tilar Mazzeo

A quick rundown… A history of one of the world’s favourite perfumes – certainly not all glamour and flowers.

Strengths: Very interesting, even though I don’t wear this perfume.

Weaknesses: Strictly about the perfume, minimal details about Chanel’s other ventures.

Why I read it: $5 sale pile

Pages: 304

Published: 2010

Publisher: Harper

Setting: Around the world, but prominently France and the US.

Rating: 7 out of 10

If you liked this, try: smelling the original!

This book was another of my $5 sale books. I don’t wear this perfume (I prefer Bvlgari or Estee Lauder) nor am I a particular fan of Chanel cosmetics or fashion. Coco Chanel was an interesting character though and several beauty bloggers have read this book and enjoyed it, so I thought I should try it.

The first thing that hit me when I started reading this was the excessive amount of descriptive language – adjectives were dominating every page! I’m not sure if this improved or I just got used to the style of the narrative. Perhaps it was because I become more and more engrossed in the story – for behind that bottle, there’s a lot of fighting and heartache.

The book describes Chanel’s early life and why some of the scents in No.5 had powerful memories for the young Coco. It then goes into the development of the perfume (but not too much technicalities) and the business war that ensued over decades as Coco sold her rights to No. 5 very early on. This caused No.5 to take over the market, being available everywhere and anywhere, from pharmacies to army stores. Coco fought very hard to retain control of her perfume post World War II.

If you’re a devotee of Chanel’s other perfumes, there’s not very much in this book for you – other perfumes are mentioned but not in great detail. Similarly, there’s not a lot about her fashion house. It is an interesting story though and will entertain history buffs and beauty fans alike.

10 thoughts on “The Secret of Chanel No. 5 by Tilar Mazzeo

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  1. I’m not a fan of any perfume (allergies) but I do find Coco Chanel to be an interesting character. When I saw the title I thought it might have a little more about her in general and not just the one perfume.

  2. I am reading this one right now. I’m finding it a little bit repetitive and relying on rumor and her speculations as to how people feel and why they did what they did, but other than that, it’s an interesting story.

  3. My mother gave me this book for my birthday last year (as I am a perfume addict! I’ve read about 1/3 of it, and I loved it, but you’re right: it’s only about Coco and her “now and forever” fragrance. One bottle sold every three minutes somewhere in the world!~

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