Author: Patrick Suskind
First Published: 1985
Page Count: 255
Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*
Rating: 4/5 Stars
This book is like a well made Thanksgiving dinner; each course is deliciously rich and it will leave you satisfactorily full.
*Unique main character/story *Vivid writing style
*Main character can be difficult to relate to
“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.” Jean-Baptiste Grenouille was born without a scent of his own. However, he is also born with a superhuman sense of smell. Every scent is magnified and the natural aromas of 18th century France are the only thing that he values. He starts out his life collecting the scents but soon he decides to focus his energy on creating the greatest perfume in history. But his grisly plan leaves the young women of France fearing for their lives.
This story was unlike anything I have ever read. With such a heavy emphasis on the art of perfumery and the sense of smell in general, the author had the arduous task of describing his world through scent. Suskind goes above and beyond what is required of him, and, in doing so, he creates a lush world where every element comes to life through the vivid descriptions the author provides. The premise of the story is very unique but the way it is presented really brings the tale to life. And the descriptive imagery, thankfully, didn’t slow down the pace of the story.
Even though the main character is devilishly evil and very Silence of the Lambs meets the 18th century, his purely wicked soul can be off-putting. He does not value life and is only driven by his deranged goals, which menas Grenouille is a difficult person to relate to. Other characters come and go, but the reader is stuck with Grenouille as our only steady character. It’s hard to sit back and watch Grenouille’s plans unfold as he exults in his success, and not glower at the pain his success brings others. Having a psychopath as a main character makes for a dark, depressing read and that might be difficult for some readers to get past.
Nevertheless, this book is one of a kind. Though the main character is a bit loathsome, his life story is too fascinating to pass up. And this book had quite a shocking ending. Even the closing sentence of the book packs a powerful punch, which means from beginning to end, you’ve got yourself a good read.
*Film adaptation: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)