Perfume, it is terribly frivolous and fantastically alluring. Alyssa Harad was an earnest graduate school student when the love of scent caught fire within her. Coming To My Senses is her memoir of sensory obsession, a journey that led her deeper and deeper into the world of perfume. Her exploration leads her from popular blogs such as Now Smell This, to sample programs including LuckyScent, and the world of online scent-swapping perfumistas. From there her curiosity leads her into the offline world where she encounters the Curator, an obsessed scentmaker who hosts an olfactory salon in Austin. As Harad soon finds out, it’s a world one can easily get lost in.
Juxtaposed against this narrative of exploration is Harad’s narrative of finally deciding to marry her longtime love named only as V. Her ambivalence regarding marriage as an institution and what it means for women is juxtaposed against her immersion into the hyper-feminine world of perfume. As she comes to terms with creating the right wedding for her, the scents becomes part of the story and the way she makes and maintains connection with others.
This is a memoir of transformation, similar in some ways to Eat, Pray, Love and others of that ilk but with scent substituted in for travel. What makes this book sing is Harad’s florid enthusiasm for perfume. Her sensual descriptions, honed by years of thinking and writing about scent, make for very enjoyable reading. Food memoirs provide a pleasure of vicarious eating, this book delivers the joy of vicarious smelling. It also along the way becomes a bit of a wish list, it’s hard not to want to experience what Harad is smelling. Luckily the book includes a list of additional reading as well as a list of boutiques and online resources for beginning your own personal perfume journey.