Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Book Review: A Scented Palace by Elisabeth De Feydeau
A Scented Palace: The Secret History of Marie Antoinette’s Perfumer by Elisabeth De Feydeau is a history of Jean-Louis Fargeon, who was a prominent perfumer to Marie-Antoinette and the court of Versailles. The book recounts his early life, his success with beauty products in the booming industry of Paris, and his career up through and after the French Revolution.
A Scented Palace can be called a truly scented book. Although I have never been very interested in perfumes, I thought that the descriptions in the book of all the scents were detailed enough that even people like me could pick up on a scent, or at least the idea of the scent, while reading. Perfume lovers in particular should enjoy this, since they will already be familiar or at least more suspeticble to imagining certain scents.
However, there is more to this book than perfume. Jean-Louis Fargeon rose to become one of the most sought after men in the French beauty business for his endless beuaty creations. He designed moisturizing hand gloves for aristocratic women, and delivered scented bath satchels for Marie Antoinette herself. Unfortunately, the book does lack on the biography of this interesting man. There is enough about him to satiate most readers, but the book is so short already - under 140 pages, and an appendix in the back takes up a good 30+ - that the lack of more information was a little disappointing.
Despite this, I do recommend giving A Scented Palace a read. The descriptions of the beauty techniques of Versailles were more than enough to make up for the lack of biographical information. If you've ever wanted to know what scents Marie Antoinette preferred when she had headaches, or what perfumes the royal family carried with them on the ill-fated flight from the Tuileries Palace - this is the book for you!