The Smell of Fresh Rain by Barney Shaw

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The Smell of Fresh Rain by Barney Shaw

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Category: Popular Science
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Megan Kenny
Reviewed by Megan Kenny
Summary: The Smell of Fresh Rain is a provocative, evocative and emotional journey through our most elusive sense, taking in the history and the hysteria of smell and the biological and psychological impact of scent on our lives.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: September 2017
Publisher: Icon Books
External links: [Checked Author's website]
ISBN: 978-1785781131

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The Smell of Fresh Rain attempts to open our minds to the power and potential of our sense of smell. Barney Shaw, a man armed with only a powerful curiosity and boundless enthusiasm sets out to understand this ever elusive sense and to explore ways to interpret smells in an accessible and simple way. His journey takes him from boatyards to markets via Harrods and his childhood home to uncover the meaning behind everyday scents and to distil the apparently complex nature of smell into language which is accessible and satisfying.

Clearly, Shaw is a man with a passion. His writing is eloquent and rich and he has managed to bring to vivid life the smells of everyday life we often take for granted. This is particularly true when he guides us around Borough market at 3am, the sights and sounds become almost tangible as do the luminously vibrant smells which waft across his eager nose, some deliciously savoury and mouth-watering, some unpleasantly stomach churning. Shaw is also a man with a vision, he hopes to encourage us to become more familiar with our sense of smell, to stop viewing it as an expendable sense and to grasp our ability in all its wonderful, complex glory.

Shaw covers everything from the biology of smell, comparing our nasal capacity to our neighbours in the animal kingdom to the psychology of particular scents and the impact this can have on memories. He uses deeply personal insights to illustrate this, from his memories of his childhood triggered by a visit to a hardware shop to his son's notion that 3am smells tense like a fox based on a childhood fear that a fox was waiting in the dark to devour him. This intimate perspective adds a warmth to the Smell of Fresh Rain and allows the reader to share in Shaw's aroma expedition. The history of stink, from working class sweat to upper class fragrance is illuminated here as is the ancient tradition of scenting the journey of the dead and the role of varied scents in the lives of people throughout history.

Meticulous and floridly alive with smells from all over the globe, the Smell of Fresh Rain takes the reader on a journey which will irrevocably change the way you think about your sense of smell. The inclusion of a thesaurus which provides accessible definitions of everyday smells is useful and informative and allows the reader to develop their own pleasing language to give voice to the tantalisingly mysterious world of scent. His guidance and advice around how to develop one's sense of smell is clear and relatable and ensures you are left sniffing the world around you long after you finish the final page. This is a fascinating, engrossing adventure guided by passionate and thoughtful insights from Shaw which will keep you riveted throughout. A must have for those of you who have ever looked past the end of your nose and wondered about it's olfactory brilliance.

You could also try Is This Bottle Corked? The Secret Life of Wine by Kathleen Burk and Michael Bywater

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Buy The Smell of Fresh Rain by Barney Shaw at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Smell of Fresh Rain by Barney Shaw at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Smell of Fresh Rain by Barney Shaw at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Smell of Fresh Rain by Barney Shaw at


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