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Publisher's Summary

Every minute, someone buys an Art Deco-inspired, amber-hued bottle of Chanel No. 5 - to the tune of more than half a million bottles a year. Considering that nearly 90 years have passed since No. 5’s creation, this statistic alone makes a compelling case for the perfume’s stature as the world’s most famous.
However, its cultural impact might be even more staggering than its business success: Andy Warhol’s silk-screened version of bottle helped to make its image iconic; Mitch Ryder’s “Devil in a Blue Dress” famously wore it; and, when Marilyn Monroe was asked what she wore to bed, she replied, with more than a hint of flirtation: “Why, Chanel No. 5 of course.” Adding to the perfume’s prestige, some of the most glamorous actresses of our age, including Catherine Deneuve, Nicole Kidman, and Audrey Tautou, have been its official face.
We all know the story of Coco Chanel, but how much do we actually know about her signature perfume - a fragrance that has enjoyed remarkable success for nearly a century? The Secret of Chanel No. 5 is the story of Tilar J. Mazzeo’s far-ranging and often quixotic search to discover the answer - and of the fascinating detours into the history of perfume that come from asking the question: What is the secret behind No. 5’s creation, iconic status, and extraordinary success?
©2010 Tilar J. Mazzeo (P)2010 HarperCollins Publishers
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Nola on 11-26-11

Fascinating behind the scenes story of an icon

I liked the story and was intrigued by how much impact one "little perfume" had. I found myself curious to know more about the Chanel firm - beyond Number 5 that is. Does a very good story of placing the story against cultural and historical background. I was not too keen on the narrator. Somewhat annoying voice, and her pronunciation of Coco sounded like Cuckoo, which got a bit wearing. I think she should stick to regular pronunciation for that word, and some of the other "foreign" words.

All in all a great book, and recommended for anyone wanting to know more about Chanel and the incredible importance of this product to the company.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful


By Amazon Customer on 04-02-14

Fascinating story with poor presentation at times

Most of the first hour of this book borders on smut. After that, it's worth listening to for the intricate history of this famous fragrance.

The story of Chanel No. 5 involves the Romonovs, tales of industrial espionage, international incidents, political intrigues, celebrities, and marketing ploys that were, at times, pure genious and, at other times, pure folly.

I found the story, itself, to be enchanting. The presentation of the story, however, suffered from too much emphasis on sexual themes, occassional profanity (once or twice, but too much, in my opinion), and, mostly due to the meanderings into subjective opinions about the sensuality of the fragrance, a lack of cohesion. Thus the reduction of two stars from the Overall score.

The narrator, Liz de Nesnera, did a good job with the material. She wasn't stellar, but she wasn't bad. I listened at a speed of 3x.

If you're interested in the life of Coco Chanel, the history of the Chanel company, Chanel No. 5, or in the perfume industry, in general, this book is worth the money or the credit.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Lord Copper on 03-21-16

An interesting read for perfume lovers

What did you like best about The Secret of Chanel No. 5? What did you like least?

I enjoyed delving deeper into the story of the world's most famous perfume. It was interesting to learn how it came about, and the behind the scenes wrangling that went on for decades. It isn't a particularly scholarly read and light on detail in some parts. Unfortunately the narrator was extremely irritating to the extent that I couldn't concentrate on the story.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Not applicable.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

The narrator had a very annoying way of pronouncing French words. Whenever she pronounced a French word it sounded bizarre, forced and affected. As others have noted she repeatedly pronounces Coco like cuckoo. Very jarring and I was constantly braced waiting for the next French word.

If this book were a film would you go see it?

Possibly yes.

Any additional comments?

In summary this is a great book if you like perfume and like finding out how perfumes are created. There are much better biographies of Coco Chanel herself but this book's focus is more about the perfume and the intense relationship the designer had with it. However the story is somewhat ruined by the narration.

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