Perfume

Perfume, not typically the book title that you’d expect to find a guy reading unless he had to for a class or something.  Like so many of the books that I’ve read recently, I heard about this one on the Writing Excuses podcast, specifically the episode where they are talking about anti-heroes.  Anyway, this book was originally written in German by Patrick Suskind (I don’t know how to put the umlaut over the u in Suskind, but it’s supposed to be there) and it does some interesting things, on with the review.

Book Stats

255 pages

Drama (hooray for the catch-all category)

Characters

This book revolves around Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a young man living in France in the 18th century.  Grenouille is an interesting character.  The book begins with his birth to a mother who doesn’t care for him, and he is taken from her and given to the church to be raised.  Early in his life he is passed from person to person because they’re unnerved by the fact that he doesn’t smell at all.  But while he doesn’t smell to anyone else (or to himself for that matter) he possesses a remarkable sense of smell and is able to catalogue and remember the thousands of different smells that he encounters throughout his lifetime.

Setting

18th century France

Plot

Once Grenouille grows up to be a young man, he becomes apprenticed to a perfumer named Baldini.  The perfumes that he creates are wildly successful immediately even though he has had absolutely no proper training early on in his life.  After studying with Baldini for several years, he goes off to try and learn more about extracting the essence of smells from objects and further his study of perfume.  While still training with Baldini, he discovers the most perfect scent he has ever encountered, the scent of a young woman.  Entranced by this, he ends up killing her.  Later, he seeks to create the perfect perfume by capturing the scent of young women throughout France.

Enjoyment

This book was originally published in 1985-1986, but the writing really reminded me of The Scarlet Letter more than any other book that I’ve read recently.  But while reminiscent of The Scarlet Letter, this book was a lot easier to get through.  I think it’s also interesting to read a book from the point of view of a villainous character.  While he is killing people throughout the book, he never thinks of it as a crime, it’s simply a means to an end and a way for him to create his ultimate perfume.  I was really annoyed by a line in the book where he decides that he is going to be evil, because I don’t think that even the worst person in the world really thinks they’re evil, it just felt out of place to me.  Watching Grenouille throughout the book, as a character who cannot connect with any human being, was really interesting to me and I thought it was very well written.

Overall Grade

This book won’t be for everyone, but it was a very unique and well written story.

7/10

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8 Comments

  1. I love this book! I read it a few years ago, and it’s the kind that just sticks in your mind.

    Reply
  2. I’m curious, but since it reminded you of the Scarlet Letter I’m a little scared. I hated that one. But you said this one is easier so maybe.

    Reply
    • The writing style was similar to it mostly because it’s told from an omniscient viewpoint. All of the chapters are really short, so consider reading the first couple of chapters before you buy the book. It really is quite good though.

      Reply
  3. I really enjoyed this book. I’m just curious..why would it be a book that you normally won’t see a guy reading? I didn’t particularly think that it was a “feminine” book….

    Reply
  4. How do you constantly review and read books that are on my TBR list before I can get to them?! I’m really excited to read this one and since you gave it a solid C+ I think I’ll try and get to it sooner than later (once I finish the last John Cleaver book!). You’ve yet to steer me wrong!

    Reply
    • Um, the whole idea of great minds thinking alike or something like that. I don’t know, do I have any other books on my book list that you’re planning on reading soon? I also read a ton of books, which probably doesn’t hurt my odds of reviewing a book you’re planning on reading.

      I never really thought about comparing my rating system to grades, but I’d probably put a 7/10 more towards the B or B- range rather than C+. C+ would be more like a 6/10 for me.

      Reply

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