by Denyse Beaulieu
Very enjoyable and informative foray into the world of perfumery. A French-Canadian who always dreamed of living in Paris, Denyse Beaulieu gives a potted biography, how she began to love perfume so much and came to be a part of that world. A mixture of biography and the art and science of perfumery, the narrative pivots around the creation of a new, bespoke perfume made for her by a top perfumer to celebrate the memory of a love affair in Seville.
The chapters on perfumery were fascinating. Denyse Beaulieu has a way of drawing you into her world and making the creation, history and chemistry of many familiar perfumes extremely readable and surprisingly compelling.
The biography bits were much less interesting to me; almost cartoonishly French, with a constant silk-knickers tone of self-conscious femininity, and highly sensual references to food and sexuality. There are occasional brutal attacks on the senses – her casual (and to me, highly offensive) acceptance of and frank enjoyment of the corrida, for example; the need to find the scent of blood and semen amidst the incense and orange blossom.
In short, I loved the perfumery, I didn’t much love Denyse Beaulieu, but goodness, the woman can write!