The Perfect Scent

This examination of the image-obsessed perfume industry by the New York Times perfume critic is engrossing — but only for roughly half its 286 pages. A masterful journalist, Chandler Burr details the creation of two new scents: commercial-hit Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker and the middling Un Jardin sur le Nil by Jean-Claude Ellena, the newly hired in-house perfumer at Hermés. The sections on Parker and Ellena read like juicy profiles, but The Perfect Scent gets murky when Burr veers into industry minutiae and tedious perfume formulas. Chandler offers revealing, pull-back-the-curtain details, to be sure, but you might wish for less Chemistry 101 and more Devil Wears Prada. B?

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