The Scent Trail: An Olfactory Odyssey Celia Lyttelton (Random House, $49.95) THE intriguing relationship between scent, memory and place is the underlying note in Lyttelton’s journey through the history, creation and business of perfume.
The author fulfils a long-held desire to visit a bespoke perfumer and after an absorbing selection process she’s provided with a list of ingredients and embarks on a worldwide journey to trace the origins of these flowers, spices and more exotic elements.
The book is part travelogue, part history and at times reads like an instructional text, yet it comes alive when Lyttelton’s descriptions of aromas transport the reader. We are whisked to traditional perfumers’ workshops, with their phial-filled antique cases, to the spice souks of Marrakech, Ottoman houses in Turkey adorned with necklaces of peppers and chillis, iris farms in Italy, and the mossy-floored cedar forests of Azrou.
There are occasional quirky anecdotes, including some unexpected natural ingredients in a well-known soft drink, and the origin of the expression, life is a bed of roses. Sharon Fowler Explore Australia’s National Parks (Explore Australia Publishing, $49.95) MY main complaint about this book is its bulk: forget putting it in the glovebox, and I wouldn’t be taking it on a hike. But, considering Australia is blessed with hundreds of national parks, I don’t see a solution. Best to transfer any useful information to paper before leaving home.
The publisher is obviously aware of the size problem, since it has plucked just 100 of our national parks for detailed examination in the book’s 402 pages (there are locator maps for another 145). Detailed probably isn’t the right word: gorgeous Kakadu in the Northern Territory is given only five pages of text (plus map) while rival Litchfield gets a mere two.
Quibbles apart, if you’re keen on visiting the nation’s national parks, this is a good investment. Small fact files and must-see, must-do panels will get you in the great outdoors mood, whether your taste runs to scenic drives and picturesque walks or water sports and abseiling. Just don’t strain yourself picking it up. Barry Oliver
Indo Surf and Lingo Peter Neely (Indo Surf, $29) THE author’s love of the waves and people of Indonesia, especially Bali, is beyond doubt. He’s spent most of his life there. But his reluctance to divulge the whereabouts of all but the most famous breaks in Indonesia is an irritating deference to the surfing writer’s code of keeping new breaks secret.
Many of the remote breaks he describes in the book can be surfed with the help of boat charter companies and surf camps, whose advertisements just happen to be sprinkled throughout the pages of this book. ‘‘ Hopefully this book will help many surfers discover new breaks,’’ Neely writes in the short passage about independent adventuring. Given his avoidance of divulging any information that isn’t already well known among Indonesian regulars, that’s a big ‘‘ hopefully’’.
Neely provides a useful guide to Bali, as well as a handy collection of Indonesian phrases, but that hardly justifies the cover price. At best, Indo Surf is a beginner’s guide, one that would admittedly light the fire of adventure in an Indo virgin, but soon be discarded once they realise that the grapevine is as, if not more, informative. www.indosurf.com.au. Fred Pawle
Springtime for Germany Ben Donald (Little, Brown $32.95) DON’T mention the war might be good advice, but Ben Donald can’t help himself. Hitler’s in here too, though the author concedes he can’t be blamed for all the world’s woes, dammit.
The Brits have never got on with the Germans. Two world wars didn’t help but, worse, the Germans nab pool loungers. Which is the joke running through SpringtimeforGermany . The brave Pom endures an eye-opening trip to the land of lederhosen (made-to-measure in the author’s case) to find the real Germany, not the one of British imagination, and regain his love of travel into the bargain.
Despite more than a little help from travel therapist Manny, Donald fails to deliver the laughs. The book might have his fellow countrymen giggling but it should have stayed at home. References to Alton Towers, C & A and Linford Christie don’t travel.
Still, there is nudity and it’s interesting, if curious, that Oktoberfest is held in September. Barry Oliver