I am delighted to share my review today for On the Scent by Paola Totaro and Robert Wainwright. When I received an email from Alison Menzies PR at Elliott & Thompson Publishers about this book I was definitely intrigued. Having had Covid and losing my sense of smell and taste wasn’t nice. I wish I had this book while I had these symptoms, and it has made me realise how important your fifth sense is! A case of – you don’t know what you have until it is gone…
I admit that I hadn’t given the sense of smell much of a thought until I had Covid, if you are one of those lucky enough not to have lost it, then you should consider picking up this book as well. You don’t realise how it can impact your everyday life.
A fascinating exploration of how losing our sense of smell can shape our world, and how the global pandemic transformed our understanding of this mysterious sense.
Paola is on a journey to get her sense of smell back. Before the pandemic, loss of smell was estimated to affect about 5% of adults in the UK but about 40% of Covid sufferers experience anosmia in some form, catapulting this least understood sense into the spotlight.
Paola lost her sense of smell just days after London went into the first lockdown, 2 months before anosmia was an officially recognised symptom here. Reporting from the UK on the pandemic for the Australian press, she began to investigate whether this strange and awful symptom might be related to Covid.
On the Scent weaves together Paola’s own story of scent loss and partial recovery, with the latest chemo-sensory research and fascinating facts about the sense we know least about, as well as practical solutions for those experiencing scent loss. It is set against the context of how the British government delayed their acceptance of anosmia as a symptom of C-19; and how the scientific community came together in an unprecedented way to research it.
From Scent Training as a recovery aid to why some anosmics experience radical distortions in how things smell, On the Scent, explains why we ignore the Cinderella of the Senses at our cost: it is a risk factor in depression and significant in the early detection of neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
This is one of those books that I wish I had when I had Covid. I was one of the many who lost the sense of taste and smell. It’s one of those things that you don’t realise how important it is to your mental well-being as well as being one of the physical senses.
This book made me realise how important the sense of smell is. Without it, things just were not the same. I never appreciated how much of my everyday life revolves around smell until it wasn’t there. I am one of the very lucky ones who only had to deal with this abandonment on a temporary basis, around two weeks before I could start to pick up aromas, perfumes and other strong smells.
The authors of this book have laid everything out in such an easy-to-understand way. Yes, obviously there are science bits, but all done in a way that this non-science-brained reader could get. The authors take the reader through the various terms, the history, and also most recently Covid. In some ways, Covid provided answers for many people who have anosmia – a loss of smell, or parosmia – a distortion of smell. From having only a few volunteers pre-pandemic, researchers had a whole world of people who were suddenly discovering that they had lost their fifth sense.
The authors bring accounts, quotes, and articles from various people around the world. Those who have never had a sense of smell, to those who have a sense of smell but one that is wrong. AS I was reading this book I realised that there is a lot more to having a sense of smell than you first realise. Have you ever smelt a flower, or a perfume and been reminded of a favourite relative or an occasion? Have you ever smelt something starting to burn, or smelt a whiffy nappy? How about your own body smell? Can you smell the rain coming so can go and get your washing in off the line?
Not having this sense for me was a shock. Food became, boring and bland. Cooking a meal felt at times pointless as I knew I would not enjoy it. This book goes through all of these moments and so many more. It makes it such an enlightening read and one that, as I have mentioned, I wish I had before I got Covid.
The treatments, diagnosis, attitudes, advice and realisation have changed since Covid. This means that it will hopefully be given greater importance. If you lost your sight you would be classed as blind, if you couldn’t hear you would be classed as deaf. In both of these cases, you would have access to aids. Now, what about the smell!
This is an educational book that comes across in a very informal way. I was surprised by how much I could identify with, and also how much I really had no idea about. I know I am very lucky to have my sense of smell back because without that my sense of taste is also gone. An interesting read and very accessible. It is one I would definitely recommend.
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