Kate Grenville had always associated perfume with elegance and beauty. Then the headaches started.
Like perhaps a quarter of the population, Grenville reacts badly to the artificial fragrances around us: other people’s perfumes, and all those scented cosmetics, cleaning products and air fresheners. On a book tour in 2015, dogged by ill health, she started wondering: what’s in fragrance? Who tests it for safety? What does it do to people?
The more Grenville investigated, the more she felt this was a story that should be told. The chemicals in fragrance can be linked not only to short-term problems like headaches and asthma, but to long-term ones like hormone disruption and cancer. Yet products can be released onto the market without testing. They’re regulated only by the same people who make and sell them. And the ingredients don’t even have to be named on the label.
This book is based on careful research into the science of scent and the power of the fragrance industry. But, as you’d expect from an acclaimed novelist, it’s also accessible and personal. The Case Against Fragrance will make you see - and smell - the world differently.
Review by Ilse Scheepers
If you've never caught a gust of perfume or cologne from a fellow commuter and been struck with a blinding headache or instantly congested nose, you're lucky indeed. Grenville is one of the quarter of the population who experience these sort of adverse effects when they come into contact with fragrance, and she has embarked on a mission to investigate the use and abuse of synthetic chemicals in perfume, shampoo, soap, detergent and even garbage bags.
Combining personal accounts with the science of scent, Grenville builds a careful - and fragrance free - case for closer examination into the use and regulation of the world of perfume and scent.
`One spritz of aftershave or perfume can leave other people retching and clutching their heads-you never see that in the ads.' * Kaz Cooke *
`Beginning with her own physical reaction to fragrance that begins with a headache a lot of us know ourselves, she investigates the fragrance industry and its side-effects and interweaves these facts with the personal to create an accessible work of non-fiction.' * ArtsHub *
`By 2015, Grenville was getting headaches from those stinky diffusers in taxis, from washing powder, from scented candles, and was sprinting through hotel foyers with a scarf over her nose. But instead of going mad, Grenville did what she does best: fixed her intelligent and discerning eye on the problem. This reader started out sceptical and ended up convinced: we have hardly any idea what goes into the manufactured smells we surround ourselves with. Read this, and gasp.' * Courier Mail *
`Fact-dense and extensively referenced, the book is a delight to read and never gets bogged down...While some of the science has been simplified, the book generally conveys the sense of it correctly...Well developed and thoughtful. Read The Case Against Fragrance and you will never think about fragrance in the same way again. If you have been suffering fragrance in silence, you will know you are not alone.' * Conversation *
`In this appealingly written exploration, Kate uncovers the dark side of the fragrance industry, from the carcinogens in after-shave to the hormone disruptors in perfume that mimic oestrogen.' * Child *
`An insightful and frightening book.' * Readings *
`Readable, interesting and informative.' * Big Book Club *
`Grenville expresses hope though that our society will find solutions to the fragrant violation of personal space based on courtesy and civility rather than on regulation and policy.' * Australian Book Review *
`You may be familiar with Australian novelist Kate Grenville's work but she enters new territory here. After exposure to perfumes and scents delivered ill-health her way, Grenville got curious as to why...The result is a fascinating (and worrying) expose of the potentially damaging health effects of fragrances and the laxity of their regulation. Grenville digs into the science of scent as well as the intrigue of a multi-billion-dollar industry and makes it beautifully accessible in the process.' * WellBeing *
`The Orange Prize-winning novelist's discovery that she reacts badly to the artificial fragrances all around us led her to investigate what is in fragrances, what it does to people and whether it is properly tested for safety...The result is this accessible and personal book on the science of fragrance' * Bookseller *
`[Grenville] raises valuable questions about the potentially harmful chemicals surrounding us every day and why we so unabashedly live in ignorance of them.' * Reader's Digest UK, Best New Books to Read This Summer *
`Grenville sets out to unlock the dark science-the volatile compounds, conspiracies and carcinogens-hiding in perfume, the ingredients of which are regularly listed as alcohol, water and the mysterious catch-all "fragrance".' * New Statesman *
`In some places, though, the danger [of fragrance] is beginning to be taken as seriously as passive smoking 30 years ago...it sounds silly, until you read Kate Grenville's explosive expose and wonder why no one ever told you this stuff before.' * Mail on Sunday *
`An accessible, intelligent, seriously researched-and terrifying-book.' * Daily Mail UK *