The Scent of You
I used to be obsessed with perfume. In fact, the only reason I’m not stockpiling it now is because I don’t have the money, but I still faithfully wear my “signature” scent (Miss Dior, in case you’re wondering). My best friend and I would frequently visit Sephora with our paychecks freshly deposited into our bank accounts and peruse what latest makeup product or perfume had come out since the last time we came in (which was only a week before… maybe two). Don’t judge me!. The shop assistants even knew us by name.
You can see why I found The Scent of You, irresistibly tempting, right? I thought so.
Author Maggie Alderson’s (Secret Keeping for Beginners, Style Notes) pleasant bit of women’s lit is the perfect fix for a perfume addict like myself. The cover is classy and sophisticated, as is the protagonist, Polly, whose husband has recently left her with very little explanation for his disappearance. Ever the keep-calm-and-carry-on type, Polly continues to teach yoga, visit her elderly mother (a dramatic ex-model), and write her popular perfume blog. But of course, secrets are difficult to keep, and as her husband’s absence extends, Polly is forced to think about starting over.
An old flame from her university days and a mysterious new perfumer help her consider her future and reconsider her past as Polly adjusts to a new way of life. Her journey of self-discovery is funny, fascinating, and just a bit bizarre as she encounters the eccentric types one imagines must exist in the perfume world, which makes for a read that goes deep and keeps it light all at the same time.
Alderson’s writing is gripping. Not in an aggressive, thriller-type of way, but in a way that simply engaged me. She drew me in and caught me with nostalgia as I read about Polly’s passion for scents and how she matches both new and old ones to events or to people in her life. I love that smells can conjure memories, and the writer not only caters to that, she lets you wallow in it as Polly describes perfume layer by layer. There’s a care and specificity to Ms. Alderson’s writing style that I just love.
Plot-wise, she teased me with details while still keeping a sense of mystery. The Scent of You may be a light read, but it’s far from shallow as it delves into life’s deeper questions of belonging, growth, and purpose.
Polly is flawed, strong and real. I never got the sense that my emotions were being toyed with, I just enjoyed the character’s frankness and genuinely felt for her.
And just to make her that much more real, Polly has her own Instagram account (@thescentofyou) and her blog (a big part of the novel) is up and running. Don’t you just love when authors tangibly tie their characters into reality?
The icing on this rather decadent cake is that Maggie Alderson is a notable novelist, columnist, blogger and fashion journalist, so she’s basically writing what she knows. Her blog is definitely worth checking out, if you have the time. She covers everything from her Pinterest addiction (a shared interest, I must say), to fashion, writing, and her unexpected switch to vegetarianism. Her voice is so friendly and open that it feels like I’ve just popped over for coffee and we’re chatting across the kitchen table.
Really, that’s the general feeling of this entire book. It feels like a heart-to-heart with an old friend. And at the same time, it feels like getting away with something. Escaping on holiday with just The Scent of You in your bag and nothing pressing on you except the gentle passing of time that keeps you turning the pages.
For me, the lure of perfume is similar to the lure of great books. Each perfume is unique and carefully considered as it’s blended to create a symphony of notes that bring out its distinctive character. I love its complexity, and how it so easily attaches itself to people or places. The Scent of You is like perfume in its own way: layered, full of character and holding the promise of memory.