Boise native takes readers on a fascinating tour de parfum

comingtomysenses Coming to My Senses: A Story of Perfume, Pleasure,    and an Unlikely Bride

By: Alyssa Harad

  •  Viking / Penguin Publishing, 2012
  •  271 pages
  •  ISBN: 0670023612
  •  Price:  $17.99 (Hardcover); $12.99 (eBook)

 Publisher’s Synopsis: At thirty-six—earnest, bookish, terminally shopping averse—Alyssa Harad thinks she knows herself. Then one day she stumbles on a perfume review blog and, surprised by her seduction by such a girly extravagance, she reads in secret. But one trip to the mall and several dozen perfume samples later, she is happily obsessed with the seductive underworld of scent and the brilliant, quirky people she meets there. If only she could put off planning her wedding a little longer. . . .

Thus begins a life-changing journey that takes Harad from a private perfume laboratory in Austin, Texas, to the glamorous fragrance showrooms of New York City and a homecoming in Boise, Idaho, with the women who watched her grow up. With warmth and humor, Harad traces the way her unexpected passion helps her open new frontiers and reclaim traditions she had rejected. Full of lush description, this intimate memoir celebrates the many ways there are to come to our senses.

My Take: This was an unlikely book to cross my desk. My perfume credentials began with a childhood bottle of Evening in Paris (if you’re old enough to remember, you’ll also remember the dark blue glass bottle was the best thing about the product) and topped out at Jean Nate. So to be attracted to a book on perfume was a reach. But she had me at the first page, and I hope the perfume world is glad she discovered them. One of perfumer’s oft-stated laments is the lack of olfactory adjectives for their passion, and Alyssa, with her English degrees, enables readers to reach out and grasp the beauty of the perfume world. A wonderful narrator, she opens the readers senses to the world of fragrance. As a world lover I am totally impressed she didn’t run out of or overuse descriptors.

Oh what I learned: That Joy was at its launch, the world’s costliest perfume; that rose and jasmine are known as the queen and king of perfume essences; that perfume scents have a head, heart, and a base; and that Coty produced the first mass-market perfumes. Through the pages, I shadowed her to perfume sniffing salons, visited stores I’ve still only read about to sample particular perfumes, and observed her find long-hidden facets of her personality – what she’d call the girly part.

She discusses the notes of perfume – the differing scented components – and one of the notes of her book is her journey of discovery about herself.  Through her new pursuit she came to understand and accept her feminine side, that which she thought she’d lost in her pursuit of feminism and education.

This was a delightful book;  I really enjoyed it and believe you will too.

FYI: On Sunday, March 17th, Idaho PBS will air, “Power of Scent. ” a new documentary style pledge special featuring scientists, experts, physicians, psychologists and sommeliers, that guide public television audiences through the unseen, surprising and widely underestimated world of our most powerful sense-smell, on which Alyssa will be guest and they will be offering copies of her books.

My Rating: 5 out of 5

Posted in Book Addicts