If you read this book you will be changed. For those of us who make a living assembling words to describe smells, this book feels like an actual elixir. Absolutely stunning
Dizzying and fragrant with elegant and riveting sentences, Levitt takes us on a most fascinating journey from the bloody revolutions to the chemistry labs of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century France, all to glimpse the glorious pursuit of scent. Truly a captivating achievement!
"Here is where the story begins," promises Levitt at the end of her prologue, and though it's only page four, already we're hooked. Who knew that the history of perfume would incorporate not only alchemy, botany, and fermentation, but intrigue, secrets, and scandal? This thoroughly researched tale is also thoroughly gripping and thoroughly readable. Elixir is a fabulous accomplishment
A fascinating tale of discovery, wonder, and revolution. Beautifully written and deeply researched, it shows how the paths to artificial dyes, bottled soda, and Pasteur's breakthrough all ran through a humble perfume shop. With remarkable historical and literary skill, Levitt reveals how the quest to supply queenly scents and Napoleon's bathwater ended up interrogating the most profound questions of life and death
As Paris was rocked by waves of revolutionary zeal and lines blurred between cosmetics and medicines, two ambitious young chemists raced to investigate if there was something special - even unique - about matter that came from living things. A riveting read!
At a time when the boundaries between scientists, salesmen, and charlatans were as blurry as productive, Levitt describes how investigations about health and hygiene were inseparable from the desire to smell good. The laboratories that gave us modern chemistry were not places where the disturbances of the outside world were kept out, but rather where they were welcomed in to be distilled and repackaged in their most intoxicating form. This highly original work shows us that scientific truth is not only messier than we have previously considered it to be - it is smellier
[A] fascinating account of the birth pangs of organic chemistry
Comprehensive . . . enjoyable . . . and most beguiling
Levitt writes in a lively style, making the sights, sounds and smells of 18th and 19th century Europe come to life
Written with the propulsive flow of a novel
'A delightful history of science and scent at the dawn of the modern age'
A detailed yet absorbing adventure story . . . Deploying superb detection skills, academic Theresa Levitt has rescued from obscurity two friends, Edouard Laugier and Auguste Laruent, who searched for chemical order in living material - that is, the essence of life itself