Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, by Patrick Suskind

At my book group the other night, one of the members handed me Perfume, by Patrick Suskind. Well..she sort of pushed it towards me and said “Read this!”. She was laughing which pretty much told me that it was going to be really bizarre. The book was published in the 80’s and I have seen it make the rounds a few times but never thought much of it. Even with all the books in my pile calling my name, I plunged into it without a second thought. Where’s that second thought when you need it?

Here is the blurb from the book cover:

In the slums of 18th-century Paris a baby is born. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille clings to life with an iron will, growing into a dark and sinister young man who, although has no scent of his own, possesses an incomparable sense of smell. He apprentices himself to a perfumer and quickly masters the ancient art of mixing flowers, herbs and oils. But his quest to create the “ultimate perfume” leads him to commit a series of brutal murders until no woman can feel safe as his final horrifying secret is revealed.

This book is filled with scents and the author does an admirable job of describing what Grenouille is experiencing. Sometimes the descriptive passages are almost too real, “From the lid of a sardine can that stood at the back of the shop, he scratched off a rancid, fishy something-or-other, mixed it with rotten egg and castoreum, ammonia, nutmeg, horse shavings, and singed pork rind finely ground”.

My first reaction to Grenouille is one of disgust. Living in his body, smelling what he smells would be a vile prospect. I do believe the author succeeded in depicting Grenouille as a monster. I could picture him in my mind, slinking into dark corners and drawing people’s scent within him without those around him knowing.

Perfumes’ creepiness and descriptive passages kept me turning the pages even though the main character was not one I could relate to. It’s not suspenseful in the way many murder stories are, but the premise is interesting and there is a movie out that is based on the book with some pretty big names in it. I’d be interested to see how this story plays out as a movie. If you have read the book or seen the movie.. what did you think of them/it?

6 thoughts on “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, by Patrick Suskind”

  1. Ti, I loved your review of this. I read it ages ago, but it always stuck with me. He is a powerful writer. I haven’t seen the movie yet either, but will try to now. I was sorry to read on another blog that you never got my novel through First Look. if you do get a chance to pick it up, I hope you enjoy it. have a great week. 🙂

  2. I’ve never heard of the book or the movie. The movie trailer is kind of creepy though, I think I’ll go see Mamma Mia instead!

  3. I did read this, but a few years ago, so I don’t have a review on my blog.It was recommended to my book group by a friend who read it in the original German (I think?). It was definitely “odd”, but very well-written, and the story is unique! The premise of the protagonist having no scent of his own drives the story – he has no identity.For our book group meeting that night we played with a perfume-making kit, like teens would use; very fun! The author told a lot about how essences are extracted, and then these essences are used to make perfume.A few of us rented the movie from Netflix. Again, odd, but very well done. I don’t think you’d enjoy the movie if you hadn’t read the book, and there’s a “crowd” scene toward the end that might be disturbing to some (bordering on soft porn, but not intended to … if that makes sense).So, my recommendation – try the book, if you find it interesting, rent the movie!

  4. It was definitely an odd book but as SheistooFond said, very well written. I may try the movie just to see how well it translated to the big screen.

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