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Publisher's Summary

A Perfect Red recounts the colorful history of cochineal, a legendary red dye that was once one of the world's most precious commodities. Treasured by the ancient Mexicans, cochineal was sold in the great Aztec marketplaces, where it attracted the attention of the Spanish conquistadors in 1519. Shipped to Europe, the dye created a sensation, producing the brightest, strongest red the world had ever seen. Soon Spain's cochineal monopoly was worth a fortune. Desperate to find their own sources of the elusive dye, the English, French, Dutch, and other Europeans tried to crack the enigma of cochineal. Did it come from a worm, a berry, a seed? Could it be stolen from Mexico and transplanted to their own colonies? Pirates, explorers, alchemists, scientists, and spies - all joined the chase for cochineal, a chase that lasted more than three centuries. A Perfect Red tells their stories - true-life tales of mystery, empire, and adventure, in pursuit of the most desirable color on earth.

©2005 Amy Butler Greenfield (P)2014 Audible Inc.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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History of a peculiar substance through the ages

This is a well researched, well written, and perfectly narrated history of the color red and of the first widely available red dye, Cochineal.

Very informative, the book includes the history of the relevant times, so as to be accessible even to those who might not be knowledgeable on kings and empires of the past centuries.

Mostly entertaining, except in a few boring places. Recommended if you're interested in the middle ages, the European conquest of the Americas, mysteries, espionage, and the actual PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN.

The narration is excellent, always clear, including great pronunciation of all the Spanish, French, and Italian names.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating history of a bug

I loved listening to Suzanne's narration. Her pronunciation of Spanish, Italian, French, and Mayan names and places was no less than amazing. Who knew that Oaxaca was pronounced Hawacha?

The story itself was very interesting until the last 10%. After WWII and synthetic dyes were standard and readily available, dyeing got kind of dull. The resurgence of weaving, natural dyeing, and traditional methods made it interesting again. Probably because I am a weaver and dyer and not a chemist.

I do not wholly recommend. the Audible version as a stand alone because the book has pictures that are not available with the audiobooks. Get the Kindle and add audio, if you want it.

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Profile Image for Teresa Cooper
  • Teresa Cooper
  • 08-08-15

Red is still "the " colour.

The diverse and sometimes bloody history of true red, given to us by a very tiny beetle known as cochineal. The author takes the reader/listener on a history from cochineals discovery by the Spanish through attempts of other countries attempts to develop their own cochineal farms through the use of chemicals to create red back to the use,if somewhat limited, of the cochineal beetle. A good book well written, with a very few slow paced bits, well read with only minor pauses when pronouncing possibly unknown words. Would I read it again? Yes. Would I recommend the book? Yes I definitely would.