Gazelle was an impulse buy (from Book Depot in St. Catherines, Ontario) before I put the kibosh on unfettered book acquisition. The opening sentence of its flap text--"A mother's betrayal, an unexpurgated copy of The Arabian Nights, a dazzling perfume-maker, and the scent of rose attar all serve to awaken a girl of thirteen to the erotic life"--is no doubt sufficient both as a synopsis and as an explanation for why I picked up the novel. What I remember most about Gazelle now is the novel's language and how fragrance permeates it.
That afternoon I heard the curious vocabulary of the perfumer for the first time. Vulgar was said with a sneer, venomous shadow with reverence. A scent might be milky or metallic, sulphurous or chalky. One was to be worn with linen the color of sand or snow; one was prodigious, one had a velvet body, another's was deep red, or, if worn in stormy weather, red veering to black; one smelled of old silver and cedar forests, and yet another was symphonic--"unlike the stenches my rivals call perfume but which are no better than the urine of asses and camels!" The great perfumes of ancient Egypt: hekenou, medjet, sefet, and nekhenem he called: irresistible. Their names alone seemed to darken the garden air with a mysterious smoke. (38-39)