Scratch, sniff and read: A review of Coming to My Senses

Benched after eye surgery, I've had the luxury to read and this is what captured my attention. I had thrown it on my iPad after seeing it referenced at Dawn's studio--her perfumes are referenced in the appendex--and it was just what the doctor ordered: A lacy-white-slip of a book that will have you dabbing your throat with your very best and greeting your sweetie with a great, big smile.

In the same way that food can serve as the driving trope in great food writing, perfume becomes both catalyst and metaphor in Alyssa Harad's gorgeous memoir about becoming a woman in full.

It starts with an obsession with language. Stagnating in the aftermath of graduate school and puffy from years of study, Harad stumbles on a perfume blog and loses herself in the purple prose of the perfumistas. The world is a foreign to Harad, a properly indoctrinated academic feminist, and she is both attracted and embarrassed by this sudden new interest. When she finally manages to brave the cosmetics counter (c'mon nerdy girls, you know what it's like, that phalanx of black-smocked women armed with spritzers and opinions about your looks--you with your insecurities tumbling out of your pocketbook), she is undone by a spritz of that full-busted contralto from the 1980s, Paloma Picasso Mon Parfum.

Sniffing and a wedding ensue as does the emergence of her voice as a writer.

Read it. Dream about finding your signature scent. And head to the grocery trailing Jo Malone or Hermes or Guerlain, where even in flip-flops and a t-shirt you'll be making a statement.

Comments (1) -

August 30. 2012 12:29

sally gilchrist

Leslie,

Your review is wonderful as usual and the book a sheer delight in describing the sensuousness of scent.  I've hi-lited some key paragraphs that strung together strands of words that made my head spin.

Thank you as always,
sallyG

sally gilchrist |

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