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

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Overview

A sudden love affair with fragrance leads to sensual awakening, self-transformation, and an unexpected homecoming

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 ...

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

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Overview

A sudden love affair with fragrance leads to sensual awakening, self-transformation, and an unexpected homecoming

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The age of 36 was a watershed year for Harad: after earning her Ph.D. in English she found herself adrift, no longer wanting the busy life she’d created, longing to be a writer but unsure how to go about it. While avoiding work on a freelance project, she Web surfed to a perfume blog, and everything changed. She became hooked on the writers’ paeans to scent, and although her attraction to perfume contrasted with how she saw herself (“a serious, Birkenstock-wearing feminist”), she was unable to resist first taking a nervous trip to the mall to smell a featured scent and, as her fascination grew, immersing herself in the real-world community of perfume devotees. She fulfills her new thirst for knowledge through travel and study; she joins a local perfume salon in Austin, Tex., ventures into the perfume sections of Bergdorf’s and Barney’s in Manhattan, and, no longer able to contain her enthusiasm, charms everyone—with stories, recommendations, and delight—at her perfume-themed bridal shower in Boise, Idaho. This memoir is lovely and evocative, as Harad becomes more comfortable with herself and her open appreciation for things, like perfume, that are about beauty and pleasure. An appendix will help converts stock their own perfume closets. (June)
Kirkus Reviews
A charming memoir about how a woman's "torrid affair" with perfume changed her life. Harad was a "serious, Birkenstock-wearing feminist" in her mid 30s when she fell helplessly in love with perfume. Her passion manifested after a personal rebellion against the "busyness" she had created for herself in lieu of an academic career she didn't want. Online perfume blogs became her gateway to an exciting and seductively alien world. Embarrassed by the apparent frivolity of her interests, Harad hid a growing collection of perfume samples in her closet. But the more deeply she became involved with her "secret lovers," the more she began to open up to life. It began with her nose: She refined her sense of smell to the point where she developed a "private internal vocabulary of smell," which derived from her own storehouse of half-forgotten memories. As she learned to put perfume scents into words and understand the complex ways in which perfumes unfold upon the skin, her desire to experience other scents grew. She sought out other scent-lovers, a journey that led her first to a fragrance laboratory in Austin, Texas, and then to exclusive perfume showrooms in New York. But most surprisingly of all, Harad found herself reclaiming a femininity that she had disowned and wanting to be a bride. All her reasons--"some political and idealistic, others personal and idiosyncratic"--for not wanting to marry her partner of 10 years fell by the wayside. Like a good perfume, this book is slow to unfold, but the author's account of her experiences is well worth the wait. A quiet delight.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143123385
  • Publisher: Viking Penguin
  • Publication date: 6/25/2013
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 590,674
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.79 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Alyssa Harad grew up in Boise, Idaho. She received her undergraduate degree from Harvard and a PhD in English from the University of Texas. Her writing has appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine and the perfume blogs Now Smell This and Perfume-Smellin’ Things. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband.

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Table of Contents

Author's Note ix

Part I Learning How to Smell

1 The Beautiful Surprise 3

2 The Librarian, the Russians, and the Scent of Honey 18

3 The Curator and the Cowgirls 50

Part II The Problem of Becoming a Bride

4 The Grandma Box 83

5 The JAR Experience 102

6 The Kind of Woman Who Wears Perfume 132

7 The Perfume Shower 171

8 A Kiss and a Dream of White Flowers 200

Part III Coming to My Senses

9 Sunflowers and City Light 207

10 Breakfast at Bergdorf s 219

11 My Mother's Femme 232

Acknowledgments 253

Appendix: More to Read and Smell 257

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2012

    Well...

    I haven't read the book yet, just a small adaption that was featured in Marie Claire magazine. I absolutely loved it, and am hoping to purchase this once I have some extra cash. Wonderful, from what I have read so far.

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