The Scent of Cut Grass


Blackberries! There is an abundance of fruit this year. Last weekend we collected bucketfuls. The activity made me think of one of the scenes in Sarah Water’s, ‘Little Stranger’, where her character is picking blackberries as her dog runs in and out of the brambles. The image was so strong that for a moment I thought it was my own memory. I feel similarly every time I see women’s leather gloves, I’m taken to that scene in Du Maurier’s, ‘Rebecca’, where Mrs De Winter meets Mrs Danvers for the first time and is treated to that first look of scorn, or when I enter an old bookshop, books stacked high and shelving close, I’m in the cemetery of forgotten books in Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s, ‘The Shadow of the Wind’. How wonderful that a novel has that power, to create scenes in your mind so strong that the smallest reminder can transport us into the world of fiction, just like the scent of cut grass transports us to summer? Maybe you’ve experienced this too. What activities take you back into a story?

On a side note, I’ve just looked up where the smell of cut grass comes from. If there’s an example of a writerly curiosity, this is it. It turns out that the wonderful smell we all associate with hope and the warm-fuzzies is the scent of death, for greenery that is. The smell is caused by the release of chemicals, called green leaf volatiles, when plants suffer tissue damage. We’re a murderous lot, aren’t we?

Happy reading!

Olivia Kiernan is author of, TOO CLOSE TO BREATHE, a crime novel set in Dublin, published by riverrun, April 2018.

Follow on Twitter: @LivKiernan

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