Photo: Darren James

at Northcote Town Hall

Kate Grenville: The Smell Test

Many grand pronouncements have been made about the power of perfume – most of them by glamorous people who sell perfume. (‘A woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future,’ said Coco Chanel. ‘A woman’s perfume tells more about her than her handwriting,’ said Christian Dior.) But what do we know about the harmful effects of fragrances; the power of perfume to make us sick?

Fragrance is the surprising subject of the latest book from celebrated Australian author Kate Grenville. After a period of ill health brought on by exposure to perfumes, Grenville started looking into the science of scents and the influence of the fragrance industry.

The Case Against Fragrance is a result of her investigation – a work of non-fiction combining memoir with rigorous research. Grenville discovered that synthetic fragrances – found not just in stylish little bottles on top of dressing tables, but also inside household items like shampoos and bin-liners – can be linked to asthma, hormone disruption and even cancer.

Join this masterful writer and storyteller for a startling take on the links between scent, myth and memory … and for some insights into why the fragrance industry might not pass the smell test. Hosted by Sally Warhaft.

This event will be Auslan interpreted.

Kate has requested that the audience refrain from wearing perfume at this event.


Portrait of Kate Grenville

Kate Grenville

Kate Grenville is one of Australia’s most celebrated writers. Her bestselling novel The Secret River received the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Miles Franklin Literary Award. The Idea of Perfection won the Orange Prize. Grenville’s other novels include Sarah Thornhill, The Lieutenant, Lilian’s Story, Dark Places and Joan Makes History. Kate lives in Sydney, and her most recent works are the non-fiction books One Life: My Mother’s Story and The Case Against Fragrance.

Portrait of Sally Warhaft

Sally Warhaft

Sally Warhaft is a Melbourne broadcaster, anthropologist and writer. She is the host of The Fifth Estate, the Wheeler Centre’s live series focusing on journalism, politics, media, and international relations, and The Leap Year, a Wheeler Centre podcast about Australians' lives in the fog of the Covid-19 pandemic. She is a former editor of the Monthly magazine and the author of the bestselling book Well May We Say: The Speeches that Made Australia.

Sally is a regular host and commentator on ABC radio and has a PhD in anthropology. She did her fieldwork in Mumbai, India, living by the seashore with the local fishing community.


More about this venue, including large map, parking, public transport and accessibility.