Monday, January 21, 2008

The Goddess of Pretty Things- The Goddess Guide by Gisèle Scanlon (Book Review)


Ignore the name. Despite the immediate associations, there's nothing new-agey, pseudo-spiritual or faux-empowerment in this book. It's not that kind of goddess.

Gisèle Scanlon, a Dublin-based illustrator and lifestyle journalist, created a book that looks like one of those pretty journals you see in stores, and is already full of scrapbook-like pages made of collages, mementos, photos, stories and little tips. It's about living in style, shopping for the best and enjoying every minute of doing it.

Had I been fifteen years younger, I'd probably regard this book as a bible for all that's pretty. Of course, back then I couldn't afford most of the recommendations, but it would have fueled the fantasy. Now that I can actually pursue the stores I also have my own opinion on most of the topics covered in the book, and a salt cellar full of grains when it comes to style gurus. Thus, I go for Manolo shoes instead of the too obvious Louboutins, I already know that I'm anosmic to whatever musk Narciso Rodriguez has poured into his perfume and when it comes to luxurious food, my top choice is this and not a steak bèarnaise.

Not that any of this takes away from this book's charm (and many good points and ideas). It's just that at this point in my life it's my own style that takes center stage and I'm a bit critical when it comes to other people's marketed ideas.

A fact that definitely explains this blog.

The biggest flaw of this book is the very little (if any) adjustment that was done for the American edition. Most of the stores and addresses given are in the UK, and while some can't be avoided, especially when talking about very specific items, there is room for some research and editing. The perfume chapter is a good example. Many great fragrances are mentioned, but you'd think none are available in the US, because only two stores are listed: Slatkin & Co. and Bond no.9, while all of the scents (except for the exclusive Serge Lutens Bois de Violette) can be found in NYC at Barneys, Bergdorf or the Chanel and Caron boutiques.

Still, The Goddess Guide is highly enjoyable. It's whimsical and personal, based on Ms. Scanlon's own experience, travels and good taste. It's beautifully done, full of joie de vivre and would be a pleasurable reading on a rainy afternoon or a fabulous gift for a young woman taking her first steps in style.

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