Review: Perfume

Book: Perfume by Patrick Susking
Publisher: Penguin Books, 1987
Genre: Thriller, Historical Fiction, Literature
Source + Date Read
: Library + September 2015
Recommend: French historical fiction thriller with a sensorial element.
Book Pro’s: All. ALLLL.
Book Con’s: –

Summary: 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 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 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 brillance, Perfume is a hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity. Translated from the German by John E. Woods

More Information: GoodReads


Perfume and I getting cozy at home.

I figured I should finally do a review of this book since I’ve been talking about it quite a bit on Twitter and Instagram, and even included it in a post on Wednesday.

I will admit that what I was first attracted to the new cover published this year under the Penguin Essentials range (Illustrated by Jan Van Der Veken). I’d attempted to read this novel a few times both on ebook format and via hardback but had little success. I attribute that to (1) the lack of interest in the reading format but (2) also being quite busy when I started reading it. Perfume is an amazing novel but a book that I think deserves some time blocked out for it, or during a time when you can dedicate yourself to that book solely in thought.

That being said, I adore this novel for one reason and that is what it’s entire premise is based on: the realm of scent. I don’t think of myself as a sensorial person. Indeed, I trust my eyes, I have semi-poor hearing (I attribute this to teenage angst and loud rock music too close to my ears) and have an abysmal sense of smell. So to read a book where one’s scent, rather than their sight or tactile abilities, are of a truly magnificent caliber, well, how can you not be intrigued?
Indeed, the novel is centered around the ephemeral and our quest to capture it in a more permanent fashion. Look at photography or paintings, music and recordings, as humans we have a rich history of trying to reproduce or capture nature and life as we know it (and as we perceive it). But smell? You don’t think about it too much but one’s perception is completely based off of your biology or history. I’m sure our antagonist narrator, Grenouille, could smell a flower in much more depth than a super-scent person ever could in our modern age and it was this desire to replicate (and his greed) that drove him to capture scent as he knew it, not as others did.

I’m rambling a bit aren’t I? I just like that notion of perception and permanence that the book questions in one of its core themes. I mean, to cross off the check list it is certainly well written, full of metaphors and depth, the characters are well fleshed out and it’s a pretty vivid representation of 18th century France. I also like that Suskind doesn’t make Grenouille out to be a good guy, we revel in his badness and how his very touch is almost poisonous (metaphorically speaking, not literally). How might this novel been different if he’d been good? It’s his very badness that makes you want to read more. In general, I’m on the hunt for this very edition and the minute I find it I plan to purchase it for my collection (I’m just as bad as Grenouille! So keen to capture and collect- but on legal terms of course).

Recommend: Yes!

Book read before this: Yes Please by Amy Poehler.

Book read after this: Everday Sexism by Laura Bates.



About Claire (BWB)

It's Claire (aka Quirky) from Bitches With Books, an online book blog that serves up a healthy dose of book reviews, lists + literary madness.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Historical Fiction, Literature, Thriller and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Review: Perfume

  1. Pingback: 2015 Reads | Bitches With Books

  2. Tammy says:

    I read Perfume waaay back when it was first published, and I loved it as well. Thoroughly disturbing however, right? I should do a reread:-)

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