Title: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Author: Patrick Süskind
Page Count: 263
Publication Date: 2010
Category/Genre: Fiction, Classics, Historical Fiction, Horror, Mystery, Thriller, Crime, European Literature
Good Reads Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.02)
My Rating: ★★★★☆(4.0)
In the slums of eighteenth-century France, the infant Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with one sublime gift: an absolute sense of smell. As a boy, he lives to decipher the odors of Paris, and apprentices himself to a prominent perfumer who teaches him the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs.
But Grenouille’s genius is such that he is not satisfied to stop there, and he becomes obsessed with capturing the smells of objects such as brass doorknobs and frest-cut wood. Then one day he catches a hint of a scent that will drive him on an ever-more-terrifying quest to create the “ultimate perfume”—the scent of a beautiful young virgin.
Told with dazzling narrative brillance, Perfume is a hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity.
Taking place in the eighteenth-century, first in the slums of Paris, France Perfume is a story about social isolation and the negative effects that can take hold and fester in the mind of one that is cast away, treated inhumanely and who’s life has little to no consequence to others unless it is for profit. With feelings snubbed out and a sense of humanity lost, Grenouille has only scents to keep him company.
This existentially disturbing character ends up finding that one scent that sends him into a state of ecstasy and eventually leads to obsession, a singular pursuit for perfection regardless of the costs.
“Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.”
It is reminiscent of Dickens with a vivid portrayal of poverty and poor social conditions with some comically repulsive characters. It is a slow literary burn with great attention to details and descriptions. The first 2/3 of the book was a set up for the climax that I kept waiting to happen, and when it did finally reach that point, it was a frenzied whirlwind of an ordeal, whipping through and twisting into an unexpected path, leaving me stunned and breathless at the end.
This book was brilliant and very unique. It evoked a variety of emotions and sensations. If you are interested in macabre, crimes or what drives some to extremes, I highly recommend this.