I am going to try to choose my words very, very carefully. I want to say in advance that I truly hope that this book does well, and that it encourages its readers to enjoy and analyze perfumes. I would also like to write a book about perfume someday soon, and if it is not up to par, I give Turin and Sanchez my blessing to rip it to shreds.
The Little Book of Perfumes is a collection of the five-star perfumes in the original Perfumes: The Guide. Do not buy it unless you are an absolute perfume novice. It contains almost no new material, and while it does provide valuable information on the recent reformulations of several of the reviewed perfumes, most perfume lovers are already aware that perfumes are frequently reformulated.
I would recommend The Little Book of Perfumes as a gift for friends or family who are vaguely interested in perfume, but are not yet particularly knowledgable. I imagine that this book would be eye-opening to someone who was not yet aware of how IFRA regulations have affected perfume reformulations. I would have also said that the often-poetic reviews were likely to spark someone’s interest in perfume, but my own experience contradicts that. I bought a copy of The Little Book of Perfumes for my parents, and they did not care for it. They felt that it was poorly written.
I don’t agree on that point. I think that Luca Turin is a good writer, and I think that Tania Sanchez is a very good writer. My issue with this book is that it appears that Turin and Sanchez did not want to write it. The book’s marketing is very much at odds with what the authors are saying about it. While the book’s cover declares its contents “the hundred classics” and “the one hundred most glorious perfumes in the world”, Sanchez protests on the very first page that “the fragrances reviewed in this book are not the greatest of all time- instead, they are those that struck us as far above their peers in quality, inventiveness, or straightforward beauty.”
I would not have much of an issue with the book that Sanchez and Turin seem to feel they are writing. But that is simply not the book that is being presented to us. The Little Book of Perfumes claims to be a list of classics, and it truly is not that. It is a list of extremely subjective favorites. In a review of 100% Love from Perfumes: The Guide, Turin writes, “Maybe my day job as a scientist has led me to put too high a value on the novel and the unexpected.” I must say that I agree. Many of the 100 perfumes in this book strike me as novelties rather than classics. Truthfully, I do not even think that The Little Book of Perfumes is particularly successful as a list of favorites. Turin and Sanchez are too similar in their perfume preferences for this to really work.
In my mind, Now Smell This is the biggest and best perfume blog. One of the things that I think has made Now Smell This so successful is that Robin has other writers who can cover for her “blind spots”. Robin is very upfront about the fact that she does not care for most oriental fragrances, so the talented Angela reviews most of those perfumes. In the original Perfumes: The Guide, which contained reviews of over 1,900 perfumes, Turin and Sanchez disagreed enough about a perfume to merit two different ratings only five times. I feel that the book suffers due to the lack of variety in their perspectives. There is a sameness to many of their five-star perfumes.
Have you tried The Little Book of Perfumes? What did you think of it?