Scent and memory are deeply intertwined — which is why it is no surprise that great memoir writing often relies on scent to do the work of harnessing memory for readers. Here are some stellar examples from the memoir genre.

floristPatricia Hampl, The Florist’s Daughter
“The flower shop was here and it was my father’s domain, but it was also marvelously other, this place heavy with the drowsy scent of velvet-petaled roses and Provencal freesias in the middle of winter, the damp-earth spring fragrance of just-watered azaleas and cyclamen all mixed up with the headachey smell of bitter chocolate.”




mennoniteRhoda Janzen, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress
“Ever since, the smell of lavender had reminded me of the beautiful embroidered blue thing into which I once folded all the inchoate desires of childrehood. That lavender hankie was my silent pledge to learn the ways of the world, to sigh and dance the cotillion and wear lace underthings. Beneath the mysterious satin flap there was just enough room to tuck everything I longed for but couldn’t name.”



hammerheadNina McLaughlin, Hammerhead: The Making of a Carpenter
“Sawdust spewed and dusted down onto the pavement, resting in craters in the cement, and the smell of pine moved with it, bright and clean, the smell of Christmas, renewal.”





h Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk
“The hawk had filled the house with wildness as a bowl of lilies fills a house with scent.”