E. M. Forster's A Room with a View (1908) is one of my favorite novels, and its Merchant-Ivory film adaptation (1985) is one of my favorite movies. I'm also a longtime admirer of CB I Hate Perfume, so it's strange that I only recently realized that this niche perfumery offers a scent inspired by a scene from the novel. Christopher Brosius created M4, or A Room with a View, for CB I Hate Perfume's Metamorphosis Series and designed it to evoke "the moment when one simple beautiful gesture can transform an entire life."
In the passage that gave Brosius the idea for this fragrance, the young heroine of A Room with a View, Lucy Honeychurch, is picnicking with several other proper English tourists in the Tuscan countryside. She strays from her prim chaperone and, after passing through a wooded area, finds herself looking down a hillside blooming with violets; the only other person enjoying the view is George Emerson, an enigmatic and free-thinking fellow traveler. George impulsively steps forward and kisses Lucy, thus opening her mind and her senses to new possibilities (in romance and in life) and setting the rest of the novel's plot in motion. (This book really is worth reading or rereading!)
The CB I Hate Perfume website tells us that its own Room with a View "captures the scent of the hills above Florence — the vineyards, the wild grass, the finocchio, the hot dusty Florentine earth. And of course a torrent of Violets..." The fragrance's opening phase evokes (for me, at least) a field of damp grass being warmed by the sun and a breath of humid air, followed by a clear green note of fennel (finocchio) stalks and leaves. The mysterious heart of A Room with a View is a dark, satiny cluster of violets (far from the candied, face-powder violet of fragrances like Lipstick Rose).
Those violets remain a bit elusive against a background of fresh soil (Brosius has made expert use of "dirt" accords since his early Demeter days), and this soil smells shady and moist to me, rather than hot and dusty. The later dry down of the fragrance is warmer on the skin, even — dare I say — sensual, with a sweetish patchouli note that lingers. This earthy phase of the fragrance reminds me of L'Artisan Parfumeur Voleur de Roses, with violet instead of rose and plum.
I've been trying the "perfume absolute" of A Room with a View, which has a low level of sillage and average staying power. This fragrance could be worn by men or women, thanks to its emphasis on the grassy and earthy aspects of the Florentine landscape. I wish it had a little more violet, of course, but I could always try layering it with one of CB I Hate Perfume's individual Accords, like Empress Violet or Wild Violet. This idea may require me to make my own summer journey, just to the CB I Hate Perfume boutique in Brooklyn.
(One last note on fragrance and A Room with a View: in an earlier chapter of the novel, the officious, novel-writing character of Miss Eleanor Lavish, guiding Lucy through the streets of Florence, exclaims, "A smell! a true Florentine smell! Every city, let me teach you, has its own smell." Despite all her aggravating qualities, Miss Lavish is quite correct about that. I bet Forster had a sharp nose of his own.)
CB I Hate Perfume M4 (A Room with a View) is available as perfume absolute (20 ml for $115) and "water perfume" (100 ml for $100). (A 2 ml sample of perfume absolute is also available, for $17.) For buying information, see the listing for CB I Hate Perfume under Perfume Houses.