Another #1001Books review: Perfume by Patrick Süskind

I finished Perfume: The Story of a Murderer on audio on Saturday. It’s very… original. I enjoyed it, but there some parts that didn’t quite work for me.

What it’s about:

From the Goodreads blurb:

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…a terrifying examination of what happens when one man’s indulgence in his greatest passion—his sense of smell—leads to murder.

My thoughts:

Perfume grabbed my attention from the beginning with the story of Grenouille’s sad birth and tragic childhood. It’s almost enough to make the reader feel bad for the guy, until you realize that even as an infant and small child, Grenouille wasn’t experiencing life and other people like most humans do. The book is very well-written and a fast read, with plenty going on to keep me interested. I thought the descriptions of 18th century Paris were incredible and the way Suskind deals with scents and the sense of smell in the novel are extraordinary. There were times I felt like I could almost smell what was being described, which was fun except when it was something gross.

For me, the book was at it’s best when things took a turn in the direction of horror: the chapters with the creeping and the killing built up slowly and steadily to the point that I had goosebumps once or twice. There’s something so deliciously fun about a scary-good serial killer story.

The audiobook version narrated by Nigel Patterson is very well done and I enjoyed listening to it a lot more than I enjoyed looking at the audiobook artwork:

While the book isn’t exactly believable (is any human’s sense of smell THAT good?), it read more like historical fiction with a bit of the macabre mixed in than fantasy. That is, right up until it took a turn near the end into way-out-there territory. I didn’t dislike the ending, but gosh it was weird.


Apparently there was a movie made from the book back in 2006 that has decent reviews AND has Alan Rickman. You were no doubt aware of this, but I seem to live under a rock. If you’ve seen it, please comment and tell me what you think – I may just have to rent it and see for myself.

Until next time,

3 thoughts on “Another #1001Books review: Perfume by Patrick Süskind

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