By Tilar J. Mazzeo, Harper, $25.99, 281 pages

10The unauthorized biography of……. a fragrance? That’s exactly what author Tilar J. Mazzeo has given us. In The Secret of Chanel No. 5: The Intimate History of the World’s Most Famous Perfume, Mazzeo addresses the many rumors that have attached themselves to that iconic bottle: debunking some, confirming others, while still others remain shrouded in mystery.

This book provides fascinating details of the science behind perfumery, along with the personal experiences of the legendary Coco Chanel — her vision, and her determination to maintain some degree of control over her signature fragrance.

Throughout its ninety year history, Chanel No. 5 has triumphed over a Great Depression and a World War. It has prevailed through change of caretakers, changes in social climate, even changes in the regulations and standards of the perfume industry and yet it has never been compromised. Its story is as complex as the woman behind it, and is every bit as seductive as the scent coveted by our grandmothers, our mothers and notably even Marilyn Monroe.

Reviewed by Alicea Swett