Winter Lists : 5 Books and 2 Perfumes

There is nothing especially winter-like about my list of books (and perfumes). It’s mainly about enjoyment, with a dose of something high-spirited. Some may call it escapism, but I see it as a way to recharge and tune out the world long enough for me to find my balance and plunge back into the routine. Moreover, high-spirited, entertaining and fun, whether in literature, art or perfume, can assume many different forms. Here is my take.

winter-list

Jeffrey Steingarten The Man Who Ate Everything

“Whenever I have nothing better to do, I roast a chicken,” writes Jeffrey Steingarten. The food critic at Vogue magazine since 1989, Steingarten is also the author of two of my favorite books about cooking and eating, The Man Who Ate Everything and It Must’ve Been Something I Ate. Steingarten is witty, irreverent and passionate, an irresistible combination. His essays are full of interesting tidbits and recipes, but the main reason I enjoy them is because of Steingarten’s dry sense of humor. I don’t know how many times I’ve read “Kyoto Cuisine,” but the scene in which he tries to pry off the lid from a bowl of soup leaves me laughing out loud every single time. In the same essay, he also describes the exquisite flavors of Japanese cuisine, reminding his reader that as a bumbling tourist he may have missed many nuances. With Steingarten you can visit the Nishikidori market in Kyoto, run a scientific test of ketchups, grill sardines with Marcella Hazan in Venice, perfect fries, or try cooking from the back of the box.

Natsume Soseki I am a Cat

Natsume Soseki is one of the most influential Japanese modern writers. Some of my Japanese friends would correct it to “the most influential.” Kokoro, Botchan and I Am a Cat are the novels I’d recommend as the best of the best in Japanese literature. I am a Cat (1905-1907) is told from the perspective of an anthropomorphic cat,who describes the lives of humans he encounters in the household of his owner, a teacher named Sleaze. Appropriately enough, as one realizes two pages in.

“I would like to take the occasion of this incident to advise my readers that the human habit of referring to me in a scornful tone of voice as some mere trifling “cat” is an extremely bad one,” the cat observes. He quotes Plato and Aristotle as he offers biting remarks on the Japanese society of the Meiji Restoration period (end of the 19th century) with its rush to modernize. Soseki’s reflections on life, science, art and modernity, and his erudition make “I Am a Cat” a thrill, while a dose of satire adds a memorable, if caustic, note. Even when he’s serious, Soseki is highly entertaining.

The story was originally published as series, which explains the quirky, disjointed narrative arc. Soseki handles the most complicated issues in a lighthearted tone, and his comic exaggerations echo the manga techniques. For instance, one of his characters, Coldmoon, is working on the thesis titled “The Effects of Ultraviolet Rays upon Galvanic Action in the Eyeball of the Frog.” Whenever he popped up onto the scene complaining of his inability to carve the perfect glass sphere, my memories of grad school grew more vivid.

Yoko Tawada Memoirs of a Polar Bear

I don’t like to edit articles too much after they have been published, but I absolutely must add this book. There is a venerable folk tradition in Japan of animals as story tellers, and the recent novel published by the Japanese-German author, Yoko Tawada, continues it. “Memoirs of a Polar Bear” explain why the mother bear rejected her baby at the Berlin zoo. You may know this baby bear as Knut. The story is written from the perspective of the three generations of bears, and it’s funny and satirical in equal measure.

Sylvia Townsend Warner Lolly Willowes

I have already described the spirited character of Sylvia Townsend Warner’s novel Lolly Willowes and her desire to retain her personal space, even if it means selling her soul to the devil. Townsend Warner is an unfairly overlooked writer, so I have no qualms mentioning her novel again. I also highly recommend The Corner That Held Them, a mystery novel set in a 14th century Benedictine convent and unfolding around a nun’s strange disappearance.

Wilkie Collins The Woman in White

Whenever I encounter a big book, I think of the poet Marina Tsvetaeva: “People say, ‘do read it, it’s short.’ And I say, ‘If it’s short, I won’t read it.’ ” If you follow in the footsteps of Tsvetaeva, The Woman in White at over 600 pages will suit you just fine. Long books require a greater investment of time, but their pleasure lasts longer. I have a particular weakness for Victorian doorstoppers with all their intricate descriptions of landscapes, characters, scenes, emotional states, and even the occasional moralizing. I want to say that it’s my guilty pleasure, except that I don’t feel much guilt over it. The Woman in White is a Victorian detective story, with elements of mystery and Gothic horror.

“In one moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop by the touch of a hand laid lightly and suddenly on my shoulder from behind me. I turned on the instant, with my fingers tightening round the handle of my stick. There, in the middle of the broad, bright high-road – there, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth or dropped from the heaven – stood the figure of a solitary woman, dressed from head to foot in white garments, her face bent in grave inquiry on mine, her hand pointing to the dark cloud over London, as I faced her.”

Perfect for dark snowy days.

Elena Ferrante My Brilliant Friend

Who hasn’t read Elena Ferrante at this point? I admit that I was late coming to the Neapolitan Novels; I was so taken with Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment that I overlooked the rest. However, the Neapolitan Novels pursue the same theme of attachment and its burden–as well as detachment and its void–that touched me during my first encounter with Ferrante’s work. The first of the four novels, My Brilliant Friend sets the story–the lives of two women, Lenù and Lila. The novels follow them as they leave childhood behind, mature and marry, all set against the violent and chaotic backdrop of a poor neighborhood on the edge of a violent and chaotic Italian city, Naples. I’ve yet to read the last book in the series, but I hear that it’s the best one.

Rochas Tocade

In perfume descriptions “sweet” is usually followed by “pretty,” but no such adjective is appropriate for Rochas Tocade. Perfumer Maurice Roucel sets roses in amber and creates a dramatic dark and smoldering vignette. If you like sweet notes, but find the current crop of caramel and cotton candy accented perfumes to literal, try Tocade.

Lolita Lempicka L

Another sweet and vibrant blend that will make my winter more colorful is Lolita Lempicka L. The idea was to blend the maple syrup-like notes of immortelle with patisserie staples like vanilla, cinnamon, tonka bean and lemon zest. A layer of sandalwood and smoky musk turns the confection more seductive than edible.

The bottle looks like something a wave might wash onto the shore (and I don’t mean a dead jellyfish, although some might make this comparison.)

It occurred to me after I made my fragrance choices that I have a distinct Maurice Roucel theme going here. Besides Tocade and L, he also created two other perfumes I have been wearing a lot lately, Frédéric Malle Musc Ravageur and Hermès 24 Faubourg. His perfumes are inviting, enveloping, and most certainly high-spirited.

What about you? How are you coping with stress, routine, and winter? 

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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117 Comments

  • Cornelia Blimber: Some books are perfect anti-stress. I agree on The Woman in White!
    If you love big Victorian books you may also enjoy my personal favourite ”guilty pleasures” (never feel guilty either!):
    Sheridan Le Fanu: —Uncle Silas
    Ann Radcliffe (THE author for landscapes, charackters, emotional states, dark woods, sombre castels, romantic troubadours, young ladies, mysterious monks):
    —-The Mysteries of Udolpho
    —The Italian
    Not Victorian: Tom Holland (he of Persian Fire): The Vampyre Being the True Pilgrimage of George Gordon, Sixth Lord Byron (in the US: Lord of the Dead): a pleasure to read if you are not afraid of gory details.
    And of course: Bram Stoker, Dracula.

    Winter is my favourite season. My perfumes are these days Vol de Nuit, Cuir d’Améthyste, Femme, Jicky, Opium. For Christmas I selected Baghari.
    And I saved the Christmas Tale from Avonden op een dorp bij Dikanka for Christmas. December 1, 2016 at 8:20am Reply

    • Victoria: Wonderful! I hope that you will enjoy Gogol’s stories. I’m always tempted to re-read them around this time. In fact, I should have added his Dikanka tales on my list.

      A friend of mine wrote a wonderful book that features The Mysteries of Udolpho. It’s calling Missing Reels, and it would also be a perfect fun, high-spirited read. December 1, 2016 at 9:29am Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: I googled this book: Missing Reels by Farran Smith Nehme.
        Sounds promising! and big enough:341 pages. December 1, 2016 at 9:52am Reply

        • Victoria: It’s beautifully written, too! December 1, 2016 at 2:17pm Reply

    • Trudy: I read Woman in White (along with The Moonstone) in my early 20’s and loved it…haven’t thought of it in years .
      This reminder calls for a re-read! As far as perfume, thanks to wonderful suggestions from the last “Recommend Me a Perfume” I’ve discovered Coco Eau de Toilette and No. 5 L’eau. I’m late to the party on Coco…It never clicked with me but one of the recommendations prompted to give Coco another try but… I tried the EdT and fell in love. Same with No. 5…I just never really liked it on me. Again, thanks to one of Bois de Jasmin’s dear reader’s recommendation of No. 5, I was prompted to try it again but instead of the original I tried L’Eau and once again…fell in love. Thanks to all. December 1, 2016 at 10:20am Reply

      • Victoria: Oh, so glad to hear it! 🙂 December 1, 2016 at 2:19pm Reply

      • Trudy: Oh, and also the original Bottega Veneta. Particularly the dry down. I find it just beautiful. December 1, 2016 at 2:44pm Reply

        • Victoria: For me that’s the best part. December 3, 2016 at 8:04am Reply

    • Theresa: What fun to see Udolpho on this list. Differently from Victoria, I recognize the name as being called “horrid” in Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. It is one of my yearly *guilty* pleasures which I don’t feel guilty about!
      I should return to Northanger Abbey once more this year, and may even give Udolpho a shot. I’ve been debating it for some time. December 1, 2016 at 10:22am Reply

    • Jillie: Hello Cornelia – just had to say how much I have always enjoyed “Gothic” novels too! Speaking of Dracula and Sheridan le Fanu, there is of course Carmilla – I have long been a fan of vampires in literature, including those created by Anne Rice.

      There’s nothing like a good, ghostly book to curl up by a flickering fire with in the Christmas season. December 1, 2016 at 12:22pm Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: Ha, so true! and a cat at your side. December 1, 2016 at 12:31pm Reply

        • Jillie: Definitely! December 2, 2016 at 12:51am Reply

  • rosarita: Your Lolita Lempicka L is one of my favorite perfumes and I enjoy the way weather affects it’s appeal. It’s cosy and delicious in winter and the summer brings out a salty caramel that’s irresistible. I haven’t been reading much lately but have been enjoying frothy movies from the 1940s particularly Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films. My mother at 89 enjoys hearing my selections (she’s always hated television so doesn’t watch herself) and telling me about the war years and the light, escapist entertainment of that time. Nothing wrong with escapism, especially now. December 1, 2016 at 9:07am Reply

    • Victoria: You’re right! And your mother’s wisdom is especially needed.

      I’ve been watching the French version of The Great British Bake Off, which is a lot of fun. December 1, 2016 at 9:31am Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: Hi Rosarita, I think you could enjoy Missing Reels: I read on Goodreads that there is a lot of talking about old movies in this book. December 1, 2016 at 9:54am Reply

      • Joy: The French version! I will look for that. I have loved the English version and have bitten a few fingernails in anxiousness as the bakers work like fiends to complete their projects. What a great program! December 1, 2016 at 5:03pm Reply

        • Victoria: There was also the Australian version, but it wasn’t great. December 3, 2016 at 8:13am Reply

    • kpaint: Classic movies are my favorite form of escapism, too, and black & white films always feel especially appropriate at this time of year.

      I record movies from TV (mostly Turner Classic Movies – no commercials) and save them on my TiVo. I’ve now got a nice library built-up of some of my favorites, including most of the Fred & Ginger films, the Thin Man series, Hepburn & Tracy, Marx brothers, Hitchcock, and others from the 30s-60s. I’m looking forward to watching Holiday Inn, Desk Set, Meet Me in St. Louis, and Auntie Mame to celebrate the season!

      I’ve asked my H for a boxed set of the Doris Day-Rock Hudson-Tony Randall films for xmas as they’re some of my absolute favorites but never air on tv. Last year I requested a bottle of Chanel Cuir de Russie so he’s getting a big break this time 😉 December 3, 2016 at 4:33pm Reply

  • Elisa: I’m the opposite of you and Tsvetaeva — I very rarely finish long books! I had a lot of trouble concentrating on reading in November, but I did finish This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen by Tadeusz Borowski (harrowing stories by a Polish Holocaust survivor) and Spaceman, a fun memoir by an astronaut. Some of my favorite reads from the past couple of months: A Heart So White by Javier Marias (I’m anxious to get his new one), Excellent Women by Barbara Pym, The Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald, and The Wall by Marlen Haushofer.

    I have also been wearing Roucel lately — last night I wore Broadway Nite. December 1, 2016 at 9:20am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m a very fast reader, so in a way, a long book will intertwine deeper with my life. But I have gotten better at giving up on books I don’t like. Why bother when that time could be spent reading something good. December 1, 2016 at 2:16pm Reply

      • Elisa: I abandon books frequently but it’s not always because I don’t like them — often it’s just that I don’t want the whole thing all at once, it’s like having just a bite of cake and not a whole slice, except I can keep the cake for a long time without it going stale and I can always come back to it 🙂 December 1, 2016 at 3:48pm Reply

        • Victoria: I can’t read in bits and pieces like that. I need to immerse myself into a book. It’s probably because I don’t read for very sophisticated aesthetic motives, but rather read in a naive attempt to make sense of life, my life. But I do like to return to my favorites and re-read the parts that made an impression on me. December 3, 2016 at 8:12am Reply

  • Anne: Hello. In winter the there is nothing I enjoy more than reading all the French prized book ( Goncourt winner, Femina winner…). I have also loved watching a Tv série called Velvet, it s Spanish but has been dubbed in many languages and it s delicious.
    I normally reach for eau Duelle in the colder months but so far I haven’t stop wearing the new L eau de Chanel! I absolutely love the first note and the warmth of the last note. It s the first time I find such qualities in a perfume in warm weather and in cold one. Normally what you might quality as a summer scent does not work for me in winter and vice Versa. But this version of the n5 works beautifully in cold temperatures. Thank you for the book suggestions. I will look into them. Anne December 1, 2016 at 10:19am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m also enjoying L’Eau. Easy, comforting and beautiful. December 1, 2016 at 2:18pm Reply

    • Lily: I have been enjoying no.5 l’eau as well! I got a sample at Sephora from an SA who was def pushing it, but I liked it on strip enough to take a sample home. It works for me where the original just…did not. It still retains enough of the Chanel hauteur (or at least that is how my nose/scent associations perceive a lot of the Chanel fragrances) to feel very elegant, but it is softened by the other notes. Not yet sure if it is a buy, but a very nice scent! December 1, 2016 at 7:22pm Reply

  • Alicia: The Woman in White! This book delighted me in my teens. I remember reading it in my grand father library. Tocade is one of my favorites, I usually wear it in late spring and summer, but will try it this winter. This is a timely post. I have just finished reading a superb biography of a little know but extraordinary writer, Clarice Lispector She was born after WWI (1920) in Western Ukraine, in the town of Chechelnik, and ended living in Brazil, and becoming one of the best Latin-American writers. Some critics say that she is better than Borges. That I can’t say since I haven’t read her yet, waiting to go to Berkeley, where I can find her books in Portuguese (although there are English translations of some). The biography,which has received several important prices is by Benjamin Moser, ‘Why this World. A Biography of Clarice Lispector,’ published by Oxford University Press, 2009. Perhaps this might interest you. December 1, 2016 at 10:27am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, Alicia! I ended up browsing and then buying both the biography and the collection of Lispector’s stories. And her novel Agua Viva. I’ll let you know how it goes. December 1, 2016 at 2:21pm Reply

    • Austenfan: My father read that biography and I browsed through it when I was visiting my parents a few weeks ago. What a life! December 1, 2016 at 6:21pm Reply

      • Solanace: We Brazilian gals LOVE Clarice! Have you seen her pics? Very stylish, too. December 2, 2016 at 7:00am Reply

        • Austenfan: You actually crossed my mind when I picked up that biography, I wondered whether you knew her.
          And yes, I noticed the photo’s! December 2, 2016 at 8:34am Reply

          • Victoria: Brazil has produced a body of incredible literature, that’s for sure. December 3, 2016 at 8:36am Reply

        • Victoria: She’s beautiful! I love her quote in the biography Alicia mentions–I couldn’t decipher her [the Sphinx in Giza], but neither could she decipher me. (This is from my memory, so not verbatim, but I hope you get the gist.) December 3, 2016 at 8:36am Reply

    • Solanace: Yay for Clarice Lispector! December 2, 2016 at 6:59am Reply

  • Nick: As weather cooled down significantly, I turned to Dries van Noten. Oh the Flemish pâtisserie, speculoos, fresh butter popcorn suggestion built around sandalwood, saffron, Cashmeran, vanilla and caramelic notes…

    And, don’t forget his Insolence. I tried the square tester, which was the extrait de parfum — they should make this available! December 1, 2016 at 10:31am Reply

    • Victoria: All of our stores are awash with speculoos in all forms and sizes at this time of year. One of the best things I’ve tried was speculoos dipped in bitter chocolate. Now, this could be a perfume. December 1, 2016 at 2:23pm Reply

      • Nick: I should have visited Brussels whilst I was in Europe! Anyway, this reminds me that you once recommended the chocolate-coated grapefruit peel from Pierre Hermé. I did not try that, but had some of his eclectic macarons: Foie Gras & Chocolate; Vanilla & Basil; and Rose, Lychee & Raspberry. Would it be possible to construct an accord around these and one still finds them wearable? — I wonder. December 4, 2016 at 12:37am Reply

        • Victoria: Oh, you would enjoy it here, especially in terms of food!

          Rose, Lychee & Raspberry especially make for a nice accord. December 5, 2016 at 10:35am Reply

  • Austenfan: I read The Woman in White in my teens. I remember loving it. I think I read it mainly because a very good TV-series had been made of it with Diana Quick and Jenny Seagrove. Well worth watching if it can still be found. December 1, 2016 at 10:39am Reply

    • Victoria: I’ll look for it! Sounds like a perfect thing for these cold evenings. December 1, 2016 at 2:24pm Reply

  • Sandra: I read a lot of my babies, today it was Snow White about 4-5 times..each time I finished I was asked to read it again and again.

    I do read the WSJ cover to cover every morning. Also the New Yorker magazine.
    This post is reminding me I do need to get back into reading for myself and for pleasure. December 1, 2016 at 10:42am Reply

    • Victoria: This reminds me of being little and asking my grandmother to read some of my favorite stories again and again. I also loved the Snow White story. December 1, 2016 at 2:25pm Reply

  • Annie O: Victoria- a belated thank you for suggesting the book “Aleppo” earlier this year. I loved it, but given the circumstances lately, it also has also broken my heart. What a rich and vibrant world has been destroyed. How does such a round and vibrant place recover from being bombed flat?! And the roses . . . will it be a hundred years before you will smell them again? Still, I am passing glad to have read about it, and painful though it is, it is better to know than to live in blind ignorance. Thank you
    I wish I had smelled their damask rose when I might have. December 1, 2016 at 10:50am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for letting me know. I felt the same way you did. Even more heartbreaking, I bought a charming book that included perfumes of Aleppo recreated by Jean-Claude Ellena. I also couldn’t bear to read it, because all of the places in its photos were destroyed.

      The worst part is that the destruction is continuing. Assad and Russia are responsible for some of the worst atrocities of this century. December 1, 2016 at 2:28pm Reply

      • Annie O: I can only think they are madmen . . . totally insane. Not even human. How precious is life, be it a child, a baker or a rose. And all that history and accumulation of experience that was Aleppo. What is the name of Elena’s rose book? I’ll try to find it. December 1, 2016 at 5:05pm Reply

        • Victoria: More like ruthless in their political aims and without regard for the lives of others.

          It’s called Parfums d’Alep, and it’s a scratch and sniff book. Even if you don’t read French, get it for the photos and the perfumed pages. It’s currently available from the used book stores online for around 5-7 euros. December 3, 2016 at 8:15am Reply

          • Annie O: Thank you. December 3, 2016 at 10:25am Reply

      • Joy: I too cannot bear to read about the terrible destruction in human life, in the cities, architecture, art and culture. I can hardly believe in modern time this destruction occurs. December 1, 2016 at 5:11pm Reply

        • Victoria: I don’t remember who said it, but “We become better and better at being worse and worse” comes to mind. December 3, 2016 at 8:19am Reply

  • Alicia: My perfumes at the moment are Vol de Nuit, Samsara, and then mostly leathers, Bandit for evenings, Cabochard, Knize 10 and beloved Cuir de Russie. For casual wear Bottega Veneta. As soon as I reach my Berkeley house things will change, but I don’t remember well which perfumes I have there, except for Lolitac Lempika without the L., Shalimar, Coromandel, my winter staple Chanel #5, and several Lutens, perhaps Chergui and Sandal Majuscule, but I am not sure. December 1, 2016 at 10:55am Reply

    • Victoria: Such beautiful, elegant choices! December 1, 2016 at 2:28pm Reply

      • Nora Szekely: Cuir de Russie *sigh*. I own Cuir de Lancome and recommend it to anyone loving leather scents. December 2, 2016 at 12:24am Reply

        • Victoria: Another leather beauty. December 3, 2016 at 8:26am Reply

  • Tatiana: Just curious who your favorite translator is for Natsume Soseki’s writings, assuming you read the english translations?
    Haven’t been reading many books lately. I haven’t been able to muster enough concentration to get through a book without my dyslexia getting in the way.
    Been loving Chanel Coco, Dior Ambre Nuit, YSL Opium, Guerlain Mitsouko and Frederic Malle Portrait of A Lady recently. December 1, 2016 at 12:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: There is only one translation of I Am a Cat in print today, as far as I know, but Kokoro is best in the Penguin edition. Soseki is not the easiest writer to translate, because he does so much wordplay, but these attempts are very good. December 1, 2016 at 2:31pm Reply

      • Tatiana: Thank you for the translation recommendation. December 1, 2016 at 4:10pm Reply

  • Olivia: Looking forward to reading at least 1-2 of these books. You are a master of drawing in interest with your beautiful photos and peaceful descriptions. I’m in a season of busyness, and though I don’t usually live this way, I can’t devote much time to reading till the new year. I’m dealing with it by wearing comforting musky and caramelic scents, as well as keeping my home clean and well scented. Not letting the chaos enter my personal space. Thank you for reminding us of beautiful things in the midst of the cold season. December 1, 2016 at 2:14pm Reply

    • Victoria: Do take care of yourself! It is a very busy time, and this year it’s also more difficult for many different reasons, so I hope that you can find whatever helps to keep you in balance. Good books always help. December 1, 2016 at 2:33pm Reply

  • spe: Oh, Victoria, we are on different trajectories book and perfume -wise, but perhaps share a common motive!

    Just finished Travels with my Aunt by Graham Greene. Before that The Piano Teacher (that book didn’t inspire me at all, but I pressed on, hoping it would improve). Also ordered Goutal’s Mon Cherie par Camille, a slightly powdery green chypre. I’m also reading Martha Beck’s self help books (Find your North Star) and reading through the lives of the saints. A potpourri….now I’m going to Barnes and Noble to find The Woman in White. Love reading about where everyone is at regarding books and perfume! December 1, 2016 at 2:38pm Reply

    • Victoria: Me too! Especially if our choices are different, it’s even more interesting.

      Greens are always good! December 3, 2016 at 8:03am Reply

      • spe: Agree about greens!

        I’ll add a small, lighthearted book suggestion: Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. December 3, 2016 at 11:42am Reply

        • Austenfan: I love “Three Men in a Boat”. Have you read “The Ascent of Rum Doodle”? It’s a bit like Jerome’s book, if you substitute mountains for boats, you get the general idea. December 4, 2016 at 6:14am Reply

          • spe: No, I haven’t read this, Austenfan. Thank you for the recommendation – I’ll look for it at the bookstore today. December 4, 2016 at 9:37am Reply

        • Victoria: The part on one of the characters reading the medical encyclopedia and discovering that he has the symptoms of all the illnesses, apart from the pre-natal fever, was hysterical. December 5, 2016 at 8:58am Reply

          • spe: There were a few passages when I just laughed right out loud. That was one of them. Great writing. It isn’t easy to convey humor through the written word. December 5, 2016 at 5:01pm Reply

            • Victoria: Also, the cheese on the train passage! December 6, 2016 at 11:59am Reply

  • Joy: Your column was so lovely today first in the photo, then the book and perfume suggestions. I really needed to add to my reading list. Thank you for reminding me of The Lady in White. It has been so many years since I had read that. It will be like reading a new book. I just finished Bleak House by C. Dickens. I truly love long dense books. Many modern books now are short and fast, I guess, for electronic readers.
    As always, your perfume suggestions were interesting. I thought that I liked Tocade, but after I bought a FB, decided it was too heavy and full of musk for my taste. In the dry, desert air of Tucson, I have been enjoying Luten’s Sa Majeste La Rose, Paris, and 1000. December 1, 2016 at 5:23pm Reply

    • Nora Szekely: 1000, yes! Such a versatile beauty. December 2, 2016 at 12:22am Reply

    • Victoria: I think that it’s also a matter of fashion and taste. I do like modern fiction, and I enjoy short stories, I have to say. I wouldn’t be able to live on the Victorians alone. And of course, writing a good short story is difficult. But yes, I love books that explore the complexity of emotions and events and that pull me into their orbit. It’s so rare to come across something that makes me think for days after I read it, so I treasure those kinds of books. December 3, 2016 at 8:23am Reply

      • kpaint: I have come to really appreciate the skill, craftsmanship and efficiency of language required of short stories. Some of the best I’ve read were from a compilation by Patricia Highsmith (of The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train) – “Selected Stories of,” if I’m not mistaken.

        Some are less than 3 pages long but so chilling and impactful that they haunted me for years after. Highly recommended to fans of noir/crime/thrillers who have a tolerance for really creepy stuff 😉 December 3, 2016 at 4:51pm Reply

        • Victoria: Very true! Thank you for recommending Patricia Highsmith. I definitely like noir/crime/thrillers, and your mention of the creepy stuff only piques my curiosity further. I do know her Strangers on a Train via the film, but I hear that the novel is much darker. December 5, 2016 at 10:32am Reply

          • Cornelia Blimber: Absolutely! the novel is a masterpiece. December 5, 2016 at 3:10pm Reply

  • Nora Szekely: Hi Victoria and perfume lovers,

    I just returned from India after a long stay, so missed out on most of European autumn weather (instead I had almost half a year continuous summer weather to enjoy, lucky me). However I found that I missed autumn mood so I tried to catch up with it and enjoy the last days of November, scented according to the cold, but also paying respect to my perfume wardrobe by running from one bottle in my collection to another, spraying and claiming “I missed you, darling!”
    In the end, there are a few bottles I reach for more often.
    I bought Chanel no. 22 on my way home and wearing it I feel cozy and it also reminds me of my wonderful trip.
    I also wear my beloved Coco in extrait and EDP version.
    Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady body butter is enough in itself to scent someone for the day and the rose-patchouli combo is like a warm hug, mmmmhhh.
    I was introduced to 1000 EDP by Jean Patou and it works wonderful with my chemistry. I wear it to office to smell like a grown-up and stand out from the crowd of “I-just-escaped-from-a-candy-shop-after-months-of-captivity”.
    I have to tell that smelling Musc Ravageur the first time enraged me. I ordered an expensive sample online only to realise that to my nose it was a dead ringer of L de Lolita that I owned already. Then I found out that it has the same creator and as of today, I’m still angry with Monsieur Roucel for selling the same scent under 2 different names. Oh well, it’s probably only me, and others may enjoy both scents on their own merits.
    I wore Carnal Flower mostly during my stay in India (which stay apparently also turned me into an old expat British colonel who brings up his Indian memories in every conversation) so I also put it on occasionally. I even bought the hair mist, it’s sublime.
    As for reading, I prefer brooding novels in winter that require more effort from the reader. I’m a notorious rereader, I plan to plunge myself into Wuthering heights and Jane Eyre again.
    For fun read, I love P. G. Woodhouse’s books about love, friendship and lunatic aristocrats. December 2, 2016 at 12:08am Reply

    • Nora Szekely: Oh and I just bought Brooklyn by Colm Toibin to help me cope with returning to my homeland and feeling “homesick” for another country.
      I saw the film earlier this year, it’s the story of a young Irish girl who moves to America and tries to settle there for good. Once she finds her place in the strange new land, suddenly she has to return to Ireland and is forced to choose between her two lives. December 2, 2016 at 12:21am Reply

      • Victoria: Whenever I return from India, I end up feeling this deep void for a while. It’s like a place in another universe, and there is nothing like it. December 3, 2016 at 8:26am Reply

        • Nora Szekely: I’m so glad you say that, I feel the same. I spent there two and a half month and felt very homesick for the first two weeks. Then I started to feel better and finally I reached a state of feeling much more alive than before. Everything seems more intense in India : the colours, the scents, the tastes.
          I came home three weeks ago and still try to find my way back to my home life.
          It is indeed a place like nowhere else. December 3, 2016 at 9:11am Reply

          • Victoria: I’m very glad to hear that you had such a good experience. I’m sure it will inspire you in many ways. December 5, 2016 at 8:57am Reply

    • Karen A: Too funny, please continue to bring up your India memories! I was there only briefly, but do a grande dame impression about our drive through Rajasthan (the driver had Ricky Martin and Shakira playing, which was just sooo perfect!), peacocks in the trees, mango sellers…….

      And love your fragrance choices! (cause many are what I am wearing, too!) December 2, 2016 at 6:54am Reply

    • Victoria: Wow! Where did you go in India? Any particularly memorable discoveries?

      Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady is such a good recommendation for this season. December 3, 2016 at 8:25am Reply

      • Karen A: It was the stop en route to Kathmandu (when I had my nonprofit, I went there researching the use of a nettle fiber that grows in the eastern part of Nepal) so just a quick tour of Dehli, Agra and Jaipur. I would love to go back and spend more time there, especially Jaipur.

        And just being there was a discovery! December 5, 2016 at 6:36am Reply

        • Victoria: Wow! Sounds incredible. December 5, 2016 at 10:35am Reply

    • kpaint: I find Chanel N° 22 to be a cozy winter scent, too. I’ll have to retest L de LL. I only tried it once and was overwhelmed by the sweet. I’ve also got a sample of Musc Ravageur (which I’ve almost emptied) and was nonplussed by the first wear (I was expecting something similar to Shalimar) but totally in love by the 2nd wear, when I realized it bore a stronger relation to Mona di Orio Musc.

      I always meant to read the Jeeves series but never did. I wonder why? They may not have been too easy to find at the time – it was in the pre-Amazon era. (yikes! being old is scary sometimes!) December 3, 2016 at 5:28pm Reply

    • Surbhi: I am about to go to India for couple of months and I am already feeling homesick/anxious. I have been trying everything to calm myself down. Even though its home, I have been away for so long that the adopted country feels home. But I Am also looking forward to smelling jasmine flowers everywhere.

      Musc ravageur is my go to scent in fall and whenever I am anxious. So, I have been wearing it almost exclusively in last couple of months. It will be interesting to see how it behaves in hot indian weather. December 4, 2016 at 8:54pm Reply

      • Nora Szekely: Hi Surbhi,

        It must be strange to return home after a long time but I hope you will make the most of your stay. I’m sure you will enjoy it, don’t feel guilty if you feel at home in your adopted country.
        I miss smelling jasmine flowers.

        In India I mostly used refreshing scents like Carnal flower and En passant. I’m curious how Musc Ravageur will behave in the heat. December 5, 2016 at 4:49am Reply

        • Surbhi: I was thinking if I take carnal flower or magnolia in case music ravageur is too much. I tried le filler de Berlin on my last trip . Just couldn’t smell it at all. I have not liked en passant here so I will try it in India to see if I like it there .

          Did you go to Cauvery emporium for any sandalwood? December 6, 2016 at 4:26pm Reply

    • Jennifer Shaw: Thank you Nora, for your suggestions.

      P.G. Woodhouse’s books are so much fun and so silly! Many years ago on PBS, here in California there was a series based on his books. It was so much fun to watch, so much so that my mother sat down and enjoyed watching the programs with me. (This was when I was young and still living at home.) Thank you for the happy memories.. December 7, 2016 at 1:23pm Reply

  • Jillie: I think it was March over on Perfume Posse who coined the phrase “that slut Tocade” …. of course that appealed to me and I bought someone else’s unloved bottle on eBay. At first I didn’t care for it, but in the cold weather it comes into its own and is a very comforting scent. Its vanilla-ness reminds me a little of that in Chopard Casmir – it’s best not to overdo it!

    It is the one in the strange technicolour bottle that looks like it could be a ride at a funfair. I understand that there is a new version, which Rochas openly acknowledge as a reformulation because they call it Tocade 2013 and it comes in the more traditional Rochas style of bottle – I wonder what this smells like in comparison with the old one? December 2, 2016 at 1:09am Reply

    • Victoria: March has such a talent for coining catchy phrases. Now, Tocade doesn’t smell tarty to me, but there is an exuberant element about it that is very appealing. And very Maurice Roucel! December 3, 2016 at 8:27am Reply

  • Eric: I’m currently reading Ishiguro’s “The Buried Giant,” a strange but pleasing high fantasy, though with a delicacy few fantasy writers can achieve. His handling of the themes is whisper light.

    I just finished a book called “Decadence: The Strange Life of an Epithet” by Richard Gilman. It’s a very interesting essay about the origin of “decadence” and how far it has travelled to its current usage.

    I’ve seen Soseki’s Botchan floating around my favorite used bookstore and I’ve been very tempted by it. I love Japanese literature. I actually just picked up ANOTHER book of short stories about life after the nuclear bombings. (I also have a passion for short stories! 🤗)

    I’ve personally been enjoying Gres Cabochard (vintage!) and vintage Oscar parfum. Vintage just has a heft that I need right now. December 2, 2016 at 1:43am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m going to look up Richard Gilman’s book. Sounds like a fascinating subject, especially since I like to use that word myself to describe a variety of things. December 3, 2016 at 8:29am Reply

    • kpaint: Vintage Oscar de la Renta parfum is gorgeous stuff. I think I’ve stockpiled enough to get through the end of days, but occasionally I find myself searching for another bottle (the little 4 ml ones.) December 3, 2016 at 5:30pm Reply

  • annemarie: A long time since I’ve commented here, but how I love The Woman in White! I re-read it a few months ago after not having read it since I was a teenager, and the BBC version was aired on TV. Goodness it’s a wonderful book! Marian Halcombe – what a heroine. I’d like to read it all over again but it’s a bit soon, I might spoil it.

    I will add that I enjoy The Moonstone even more, not sure why. Something to do with the narrative drive towards the solving of a single mystery.

    I’ve read several other Collins novels, and just ordered The Dead Secret as a Christmas present to myself, for holiday reading. It’s summer here, but who cares! December 2, 2016 at 4:43am Reply

    • Victoria: I also like The Moonstone, my very first novel by Collins. The description of one of the characters as having unfathomable grey eyes stuck with me for a long time. December 3, 2016 at 8:32am Reply

  • Solanace: Wearing my sweet perfumes for comfort, too! Just rediscovered Kenzo Kashaya in the back on my closet, it’s really nice and apricoty. Also wearing a lot of Shalimar, Marron Chic, Lush Vanillary, Lolita Lempicka and Hypnotic Poison. And reading Angela Davis and Paul Beatriz Preciado, to get this spine straight! Love will prevail. December 2, 2016 at 6:57am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes! 🙂
      Kashaya is such a curious perfume, with a flaw that gives it an interesting twist–half way through you stop smelling it, but then it resumes again. December 3, 2016 at 8:34am Reply

      • Solanace: YES, it does disappear then returns back again! I thought it was me… December 3, 2016 at 8:53am Reply

        • Victoria: It wasn’t intentional, but I like the effect. December 5, 2016 at 8:56am Reply

  • MMKinPA: I just put several of these books on my library wish list for kindle books. Have never read any of them! I have FB’s of both Tocade and L… loves from early in my perfumista journey. Roucel is well represented in my collection. December 2, 2016 at 3:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: Hope that you will find something to make this winter brighter.

      We’re on the same wavelength when it comes to perfume. 🙂 December 3, 2016 at 8:37am Reply

  • rainboweyes: Long books, yes, I love them too! I’ve just started reading Middlemarch, so it’s a timely post. And Elena Ferrante is already waiting on my bedside table 🙂

    I must admit I’ve never heard of The Woman in White, but your review and the comments from other BdJ readers sound intriguing so it goes on my reading list!
    Of course I know the story of Knut, the baby bear, but I had no idea there was a book about it, thanks for the tip!

    As for Maurice Roucel – well, as an absolute ISM lover, I’d say he’s one of my favourite perfumers 🙂 December 3, 2016 at 5:23am Reply

    • Victoria: Memoirs of a Polar Bear has such a wry sense of humor and its touch of absurd is welcome too. All in all, a fun read.

      Middlemarch is one of those books that sets a high standard. I don’t think I was able to enjoy much fiction for about a year after I finished that book. December 3, 2016 at 8:38am Reply

  • Irina: Yet another trip to the decanters after your inspiring post 🙂

    As soon as the mornings became frosty here, it have been Chaos and Champs-Elysees for me. I enjoy reading Christmas-themed anthologies of short stories in December, I have quite a few. December 3, 2016 at 7:34am Reply

    • Victoria: I love Chaos. (Now that I typed it out, it sounds like some life philosophy statement.) 🙂 December 3, 2016 at 8:39am Reply

  • Hamamelis: I am a bit too busy to read much, I read Elizabeth Chaldwick’s Eleanor of Aquitaine’s series which I enjoyed a lot (boy was she tough!). I started another one of her books but got a bit stuck. So I may try the Woman in white. I do read Hafez’s poetry with much joy. Perfumes are Arbole Arbole (really fallen for this), Une Rose Chypree, Mona di Orio Vanille, Ambre and Rose, and my old faithful Heure Exquise. December 3, 2016 at 2:04pm Reply

    • Victoria: With Hafez, it’s a pleasure to pick a poem at random. Even if I have no time to read, I also love his collections. December 5, 2016 at 10:30am Reply

  • kpaint: I haven’t thought about Jeffrey Steingarten in ages. I read The Man Who Ate Everything when it came out and recommended it to everyone I knew. The perfect french fry story reduced me to tears every time I read it. (And still makes me laugh over 15 years later!) If I’m not mistaken, this is also the book that includes the anecdote about Christopher Hitchens losing weight on a diet of sour cream and scotch (or was it Steingarten himself?)

    It’s been unseasonably warm where I am (even warmer than the last 2 winters, which were unseasonably warm) and we’ve not yet had real-deal cold winter weather. I’ve only just begun dipping into deep winter scents like Shalimar Mexique, but have spent quite a bit of time in L’Artisan Amour Nocturne, Coromandel (which I might be happy wearing all winter long,) Nirvanas Black, Rose and Bourbon, Habanita L’Esprit, and Rosine Rose Kashmirie and Praline in the evenings. December 3, 2016 at 5:46pm Reply

    • Victoria: I think that he only mentions it, but I don’t remember in which essay this anecdote figured. His essay on fixing the curdled cake batter is another favorite. December 5, 2016 at 10:33am Reply

  • Jennifer: The weather here in the San Francisco bay area has been unusually warm. I have been walking, cooking, sewing and reading many different books. I am very slowly reading one of Mandy Aftell’s books along with The little book of perfumes. Other than that I have been doing more cooking, which is always nice. Today I wore one of my favorite Hermes perfumes- 24 Faubourg. Yesterday while at Sephora I picked up a sample of Thierry Mugler’s Alien. It’s a very different choice for me, because it’s not a floral based scent. December 3, 2016 at 8:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: Are you liking Alien so far? December 5, 2016 at 10:33am Reply

      • Jennifer Shaw: I like the beginning of the perfume, Victoria. It does take a while to get to the base notes, which is my favorite part!
        Alien has more of a berry based top note. It’s okay with the top and middle notes. What I really love is the dry down. The base notes are beautiful!

        Thank you all for the great ideas for new reading material! I was on an Edith Wharton kick and read Ethan Fromm and The Age of Innocence. Both books were fantastic, even though I cried at the end of both books. I did watch the movie of Age of Innocence, with Daniel Day Lewis, Michelle Pfieffer and Winona Rider. It was a gorgeous movie, but the adaptation left holes in the plot! Because I love sewing, I am starting to plan out my next sewing project which is a tailored coat. December 6, 2016 at 1:45pm Reply

        • Victoria: I read Edith Wharton in high school (and The House of Mirth when I was already in college), and her novels stayed with me. Perhaps I should re-read The Age of Innocence. December 6, 2016 at 2:13pm Reply

  • Tara C: I am currently plowing through Murakami’s 1Q84, which is 3 volumes in paperback. I like long books as I read so fast the shorter ones are done too quickly.

    Having a gourmand iris moment with Traversée du Bosphore, Dior Homme and Misia. December 3, 2016 at 11:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, same here. Of course, it depends on the subject matter, but I finish a book of a couple of hundred pages in an evening. December 5, 2016 at 10:34am Reply

  • Jo: I have recently joined a book group and we solely read virago modern classics. So far I have read before lunch by Angela Thirkell, the infernal world of Bramwell Bronte and the Dud Avocado. Our next book is Lolly Willows. I am looking fwd to starting it. The virago modern classics list has some wonderful books on it . My most recent perfume was Fancy Nights by Jessica Simpson as it smelled Christmassy some how ☺️ X December 5, 2016 at 1:31pm Reply

    • Victoria: Virago is the main reason Townsend Warner started getting more attention. Hope that you enjoy Lolly Willowes as much as I did. December 6, 2016 at 11:52am Reply

  • mysterious_scent: “What about you? How are you coping with stress, routine, and winter? ”

    I am half-way through Alexander McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie series. Light mysteries, intelligent middle-aged female protagonist and lots of arts, poetry and Scottish history.

    The several gardenias in my perfume collection always lift me up in winter, transport me back to my imaginary garden.

    Don’t forget music. I listen to the good old Leonard Cohen (who sadly passed away not so long ago), melancholy but deeply comforting. December 13, 2016 at 8:26am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, I’m writing those down too. All of the components sound interesting. December 13, 2016 at 8:41am Reply

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