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Secret Of Chanel No. 5 Anz, The

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  730 Ratings  ·  114 Reviews
The unauthorized biography of the world's most famous, seductive, and successful perfume

With its rich golden hue, art deco-inspired bottle, and timeless, musky scent, Chanel No. 5 is the world's bestselling perfume. Reverently known among industry insiders as le monstre--the monster--it is arguably the most coveted consumer luxury product of the twentieth and twenty-first
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Paperback, 304 pages
Published November 1st 2010 by HarperTorch
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Margitte
FROM THE BLURB

A blend of evocative history and thoughtful research, here is a glittering account of where art and sensuality mingle with dazzling entrepreneurship and desire: Chanel No. 5.

When was the first time that you became aware of Chanel No. 5? I can't really remember. But I do remember my reaction when I first received it as a birthday gift. The first moment I smelled it, I was blown away. Really knocked off this planet. Suddenly all the hype around it made perfect sense. I remained in a
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BrokenTune
Feb 04, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
The reason I picked up The Secret of Chanel No. 5: The Intimate History of the World's Most Famous Perfume is that I really enjoyed Mazzeo's book The Hotel on Place Vendome: Life, Death, and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris.

One of the stories told in The Hotel on Place Vendome provides an insight into the life of Coco Chanel and a brief glimpse into the history of her famous perfume - both left me interested enough to want to read a little bit more about both subjects - even tho I am not impr
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Eva
What a wishy-washy story for non-fic. The first 70 pages were kind of a recollection of some hazy dream. I just couldn't with this book. No concrete facts, dates, or story. I didn't like the organization of the book and it was incredibly repetitive. Yes, we get it Chanel No.5 is sexy and seductive, that was repeated at least every other page. I think this story overall would have been better served as historical fiction, that way the author gets the liberties to expand on the myth that is Chanel ...more
Angela
Apr 23, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The book was good. The Perfume, better.
Sarah Lachance
I really wanted to love this book. I did learn about the stories behind Chanel No. 5 (and I say stories because much of this book remains speculative), my main issue with 'The Secret of Chanel No. 5' is with the writing style.

Mazzeo has a tendency to repeat phrases. For example, between pages 12 and 15, she makes reference to the idea that Coco Chanel had "not yet thought of" becoming a fashion or fragrance designer no less than seven times over the course of three pages. While I get the reason
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Amelia
Feb 26, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Was an incredibly interesting and informative read. Some of the concluding statements however left me, I guess, cringing, by the way they drew conclusion with no clear, hard and recorded evidence. So as a historical text I feel it was challenging because I was often left saying "based on what evidence?" But in the same breath, the author is very talented that she has created a novel looking at the truthful possibility of the rumors and scandals that were associated with Chanel No.5 making an int ...more
C
Dec 19, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Like a high school essay turned into a book. I learned nothing, and came away with a deep seated feeling of violation. Shame.
Mary Ronan Drew
Dec 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The perfume industry calls Chanel no 5 "le monstre" and rightly so. It is and has been for most of its 90 years the best-selling perfume in the world. Marilyn Monroe wore it (and nothing else) to bed. Andy Warhol made a silk screen of it along with Campbell soup.

So what's the secret? It's an unusually sophisticated perfume that, unlike many other luxury products, has not compromised over the years. What I wear today (you knew I wore Chanel No 5, of course) is pretty much what Chanel envisioned
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Topher
Aug 02, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The book reads like an overwritten book version of Behind The Music, the author tends to repeat herself a lot (as if she was getting paid by the word...or if she didn't trust her audience to read straight through and actually retain the information), and the writing is just plain klunky in some places. Although the book seems meticulously researched (at least there are a gazillion notes so one assumes), I never feel safe with the theses that she makes. Bottom line: Mme. Chanel doesn't seem to be ...more
Whitney
Dec 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic introduction to the science of scent! It focuses on the arguably most famous perfume in history. Called le monstre by industry insiders, Chanel No. 5 lived her own life; she freed herself from her creators. She became famous despite a basically non-existent marketing campaign, ridiculously expensive ingredients, and questionable political affiliations. And, yes, I am referring to the perfume as "she."

This book traces the twin trajectories of both Coco Chanel and her trademark perfume
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Tinav
Oct 01, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
How did the Imperial Russian court and the revolution, cabaret clubs, a breakthrough in molecular chemistry, a convent in the South of France, the flower fields of Grasse, American GIs and German troops in World War II, contribute the to creation and worldwide popularity of this iconic fragrance? Mazzeo tells all in this fun slice of history.

Knowing there are more definitive biographies of Coco Chanel already written, Mazzeo wisely gives us just enough of her background to show how and why she d
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A
Jan 18, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2011
Should really be 2.5 stars. A fascinating concept -- the biography of a scent, arguing that Chanel No. 5 is quite literally the distillation of the life, times, loves, fears, and memories of Coco Chanel and her heady 1920s années follees era -- pretty much ruined by atrocious writing, mindless repetitions, historical inaccuracies, factual contradictions, and other sins against nonfiction writing. This would have made a great New Yorker article, but there's clearly not enough information out ther ...more
Jennifer
Jul 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who are interested in Chanel and fragrance
Well, I do have to admit this is an enjoyable and fascinating read about Gabrielle Chanel. What I am enjoying the most about this book is how the perfume itself came into existence. Starting with the background of Gabrielle's youth(life in the convent) and then the serendipitous meetings with the cousin of the last Czar of Russia and the parfumer Ernest Beaux is compelling. The idea that it could be the ill fated perfume of the late czarina is remarkable!

I have had a fascination with flowers an
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Melany
Dec 06, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In addition to learning more about Coco Chanel's life, this is a good insight into a woman running her own business in a misogynistic world, and the walk through my old neighborhoods in Paris was really great.
Linda
Feb 20, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I liked the history of the times and the iconic perfume but the writing style was lackluster and several facts were repeated too much, unable to camouflage the lack of information available.
Robert Millard
Great subject but written with tons of repetition. Constantly contradicts itself portraying coco as innovator and then explains how others before used same mixes or marketing. Book twice as long as it needed to be. In the end she is fascinating.
Sherrie
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Pretty dry reading. Skimmed through most of it.
Angel
Jan 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting book that I found pretty much by serendipity. I learned one or two things along the way not only about Chanel (the lady and the perfume) but also about the perfume industry itself. This book does two things. One, it provides a biography of Coco Chanel, the fashion designer of humble beginnings who went on to launch a fashion brand and created a perfume (with some help from some friends) that is now known the world over. Two, it is a history of Chanel No. 5, a perfume that ...more
Neil Pierson
The Preface of this book tells me that everything I "knew" about Chanel No. 5 is not true. Since I didn't know anything about it in the first place, I haven't been loaded down by a burden of misinformation, and the Preface boosted my self-esteem.

As I do for most things, I blame my wife for my ignorance of perfume. She dislikes wearing it. This denies me an easy out for birthdays and Christmas, but whatever.

She also dislikes second-hand perfume on other people. Especially me.

Oh, the book: Coco C
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Laurie
Aug 23, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chanel No. 5 is the world’s best selling perfume- and has been for decades. It’s been so popular for so long, in fact, that it’s actually become a sort of cultural icon- a symbol of luxury, capable of being recognized by the bottle shape, even by those who have never smelled the juice inside. This book is the ‘biography’ of No. 5.

I have a great interest in perfume, so I had high hopes for this book. As I made my way through it, though, I kept feeling like I’d read it before. I hadn’t, but I had
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Adrian Chew
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sam Still Reading
Aug 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: perfume and Chanel fans
Recommended to Sam Still Reading by: sale book
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
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Kimberly
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, history, business
What a read!

Such history! Such tragedy! Two World Wars and torrid company power struggles! Nazis! The British Monarchy! Fallen Russian Grand Dukes! WOW!

From her history with lovers, her co creation of no. 5 with Ernest Beaux, the history of Rallet N°1 -- and what happens when you screw yourself in your perfume profit contract is to know what it means to be a living soap opera character. Coco Chanel's life and the history of her legendary perfume was immensely interesting. Ms Mazzeo tells the st
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Leah
Mar 04, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Before reading this book, I had no idea there was such a complicated history behind Chanel's signature fragrance. And I was a bit surprised at how Coco Chanel was not only incredibly brilliant, inspired, and ambitious but also petty, hypocritical, and vindictive in her business dealings. She created a beautiful scent with the help of some very talented people and created a sensation with it by partnering with some others. The complicated relationship between Coco and her partners is a long—and o ...more
Mari
Nov 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Short & Sweet of it: A captivating story of the history behind the world's most famous perfume. Coco Chanel's development of the fragrance did not come without plenty of complications- in both her business & her personal life.

I've been a fan (along with the rest of self-proclaimed somewhat stylish women everywhere) of Chanel No. 5 for as long as I can remember... basically since I was tall enough to reach my mom's perfumes on the counter. I also love semi-biographical books written a
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Nora
Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical-facts
the first time I tried Chanel No. 5 I was 14 years old, and stole a drop from my mother's perfume - did not like it, smelled old to me. 30 years later I read a book about Coco Chanel and how she created Chanel No. 5 (Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life by Justine Picardie). this made me "retry" Chanel No. 5 in a perfumery shop, and I fell in love - the first thought that came to my mind was "clean". I bought it, and use it not only on special occasions, I put it one on days that I know will be ...more
Donna
Jul 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting look at the creation, distribution and various personalities involved with Chanel No. 5. There is a reference that during the 70's it was looked upon as a fragrance for a previous generation. That's exactly how I always have felt about it - it was for little old ladies. Now that I've learned more about it, I'll have to try a sample next time I'm at a perfume counter.

I read this on my Kindle so the numerous index references were not in sync. That was my major complaint and
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Lynda
Oct 01, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would compare this book to an opera by Wagner. A good red pen to edit could only help! The book is a biography of a perfume. A most interesting premie. The problem...the amount of minutia is painful. There is apparently NOTHING in this world concerning the perfume that does not need to be shared...and most irritatingly...repeated or restated...endlessly. I seldom "skip" when I read a book. I studied history and was taught that one must read every word the author wrote, from the preface to the ...more
Oli
Oct 05, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Although the topic is interesting and the book gives an insight (albeit superficial) into a world which is fascinating, the writing style almost killed it for me. Rarely have I read a book where the author (although it'd be probably more accurate to call him a 'gatherer of facts and anecdotes') repeated the same facts over and over and over and over - it was truly maddening at times. This book is in dire need of a good edit, but I bet that if all the repeatitions were removed, the book would be ...more
Matt Potter
Aug 15, 2014 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I am just over halfway through this wretched book ... the author has spun what amounts to a breathless essay into what looks like it's going to be 300 pages of drivel. A good editor would hack away the constant repetitions, the inane propositions, the baseless hypotheses this silly author constantly conjures up. Sitting down and making up a completely new story about the making of this perfume would probably be more interesting ... frankly, Tilar J. Mazzeo and Harper Perennial should give me my ...more
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Tilar J. Mazzeo is a cultural historian, biographer, and passionate student of wine and food culture. She divides her time among the California wine country, New York City, and Maine, where she is a professor of English at Colby College.

(from the author's website)
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