Monday, November 16, 2015

Perfume A Century of Scent - Lizzie Ostrom

The season for trying to resist new books is here. Amazon might not be good for much but the wish list is really handy for directing family to if they're at a loss for a suitable birthday or Christmas present (and anybody else asking for that matter). At least it would be really handy if I stopped buying things off it the moment I see them in an actual shop.

Lizzie Ostrom's 'Perfume A Century of Scents' is just such a book. It would have made life much easier for my sister if I'd left it on my wish list but I couldn't resist it. I love perfume, I particularly love vintage perfume, or at least the (albeit reworked) classics that have survived. They survive for a reason - because they still capture the imagination.

Lizzie Ostrom's is also Odette Toilette, and she does smell the decade sessions at Les Sentuers. I would love to go along to one of these but the London location is inconvenient (by which I mean the train is prohibitively expensive, damn you East Midland Mainline). Maybe one day.

Meanwhile this book lets me read all about it. The difference between 'A Century of Scents' and other perfume books I've bought over the years is that this one focuses as much, if not more, on the social history as it does the juice in the bottle. There is a scent from every year, not just classics - some are now history, but all with a story to tell. It's by no means an exhaustive list of the centuries scents, there are even a couple of surprising omissions, but it captures what was popular.

It's also a really entertaining book. Previous perfume books I've read have tended to be either over reverential towards the scent, or deliberately snarky about those not destined to be classics. Ostrom doesn't really do either; she's maybe extra enthusiastic about favourites (quite natural) but because of the focus on social history there's more to talk about, more room for humour, and just a lot of enthusiasm for what is a fascinating subject. I love this book.

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