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The Big ReadPerfume

Patrick Suskind

Average Review Rating Average Rating 7/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Penguin Books

Published : 1985

Copyright : Diogenes Verlag A G Zurich 1985

ISBN-10 : PB 0-14-012083-1
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-14-012083-7

Publisher's Write-Up

An acclaimed bestseller and international sensation, Patrick Suskind's classic novel provokes a terrifying examination of what happens when one man's indulgence in his greatest passion - his sense of smell - leads to murder.

In the slums of eighteenth-century Paris, 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 fresh-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 brilliance, Perfume is a hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Chrissi (191203) Rating (7/10)

Review by Chrissi
Rating 7/10
I know that this was in the Big Read Top 100, but I am unsure as to why. I was loaned this book by a colleague and told that it was very good, but I just found it to be a bit weird. It is all about a man called Grenouille who has no personal odour, not as a baby nor as an adult, whose sense of smell is acute and as such he is able to recognise and create smells that appeal to other people.

Whilst investigating all of the available odours in Paris, he comes across a smell that enchants him to the degree that he commits the most heinous of crimes to be able to absorb it, and working for a tanner, he becomes more useful when he contracts and survives anthrax but when he takes some skins to a parfumier he decides that he wishes to be an apprentice to him.

He persuades the parfumier to take him on and proceeds to make him a wealthy man. When he wishes to leave he departs Paris and eventually lives in a cave, spending years wrapped in his library-like memory of smells. Upon emerging he realises that he has left no scent behind him that would indicate his presence in his cave. He returns to society to make a scent that would make people see him as one of them, concocting a gross mixture of things with which to scent himself to make him into one of the unwashed masses.

As well as making this normal scent, he sets out to capture the essence of beauty, literally, murdering girls on the brink of womanhood and taking their scent. When he is finally caught the crowd want to hang him but he wears his latest scent, a scent so captivating that it makes the people whose young women he stole forgive him and he leaves a free man.

I shan’t tell you the final twist to the story of this murderer but I was gob smacked and it is really quite appropriate that he should meet his end this way...

I have to say that although I cannot say that I really enjoyed this book, it did hold a weird kind of fascination for me, and has left quite an impression. It is not a nice story but is very evocative, the descriptions are vivid and the story compelling, and although it is not something that I would recommend lightly, I might suggest it to someone, someday…
Chrissi (19th December 2003)

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