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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
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1001 book reviews > Perfume: The story of a murderer, by Patrick Suskind

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message 1: by Hilde (last edited Jul 03, 2018 12:34PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hilde (hilded) | 355 comments Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind - 3*
Read June 2018

What a weird book! I struggled a bit with this as it was so, so weird..

(view spoiler)


message 2: by Dree (last edited Apr 17, 2019 03:34PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dree | 243 comments 4 stars (read April 2019)

This novel has a very clever and interesting premise--a baby is born who has no smell. As he grows, we learn that he does not smell himself, but he has a masterful nose (perfect smell, like perfect pitch?). He can pick out smells from behind walls, blowing on the wind--and not just strong smells. He can smell money, etc. He manages to apprentice himself to an aging master perfumer, and makes the man's business thrive again. But Grenouille, now a young man, does not care about that. He wants to learnt he art of the perfume business so he can capture the smell that captivates him--that of the beautiful girl coming into womanhood. In the meantime, he also learns how to manipulate people with scents he creates for himself--because with no scent, he is virtually invisible to people and dogs.

I really enjoyed this, but found the ending to be disappointing and a bit odd. Or did he cause this end himself, using the scents he had made? Or are the thieves, cutthroats, etc, of Paris really that different from the regular folk of the countryside? (view spoiler)


Kristel (kristelh) | 4259 comments Mod
Read 2013
** spoiler alert ** This book was odd, really odd. I struggled with it because it was odd. The protagonist, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is not likeable. His mother planed to leave him in a pile of fish offal to die but he survived. She was beheaded, thus his name Jean-Baptiste, is a reminder of his mother and his last name means frog. But the oddest thing about Grenouille is he has no odor. He has no scent at all. Grenouille was born July 17, 1738 in Paris, France. While Grenouille has no odor he has an extraordinary sense of smell. The story follows Grenouille over the next thirty some years as he is rejected by the wet nurse, the monk, placed in an orphanage, indentured to a tanner and finally he manages to get into the perfume business where he is able to learn how to put his sense of smell to his advantage. During this early time, he discovers a scent that he “has to have”, the smell of a young virgin on the brink of womanhood. The next span of time, Grenouille takes himself into the wilderness where he spends seven years to avoid smelling any human smell. This section is very strange, there is a part that reads like Genesis and it reads as if Grenouille is a god, a creator. From here, Grenouille goes to Grasse (he has his papers as a journeyman perfumer) and he finds a business to attach himself where he learns more methods used in creating perfumes. He also finds a new virgin and again wants to capture that scent. Jean-Baptiste has also discovered he has no scent and therefore no identity so he begins working on creating scents for himself. He finds different ones that work for various occasions. He also decides to create a scent that will make mankind love him. Well that is enough, if this intrigues you, you will need to read the book. The ending is, well, it is a bit of surprise. One thing that also occurs, everywhere that Grenouille goes, death follows. The mother dies, the orphan mistress dies, the perfumer in France dies. The deaths are natural deaths but all odd deaths or deaths they feared the most.

************This section may contain spoilers not otherwise available in most areas**********

For originality this story takes 5 stars. I felt like there is so much there the author is trying to say through this story but what I feel is that it follows the life of Jesus only in reverse. Grenouille is introduced by his mother who is beheaded. He spends time in the wilderness but instead of resisting temptation, he goes with the grandiose. At this point he heads into his ministry. Instead of healing he brings death even though at first he often brings lots of money to those he joins. Instead of being rejected as he is taken to die (very similar to Jesus by the way) all people feel total love for him and want him.

Character development; yes Grenouille’s character is developed and through him we know some of the other characters but it really is a march through several characters lives.

The language of perfume and the business is very interesting. The writing is poetic at times.

Emotional impact. Because this is a bit of a horror in so many ways, there is not a feeling of pleasure nor is it a nice picture of people. It is also a mystery and the ending is truly unpredictable at least I think so. I think it is going to be hard to quit thinking about this story.

This book made me think about the killings by people who are bullied in school, shunned by society and have gone out and killed. The protagonist is not treated badly in general but he also is not especially noted. He is just easy to overlook. He has no scent, he has no identity. People pay no attention. He has no attachment to people. He hates how they smell. The only thing he loves is smell. The protagonist is a murderer but as in so many cases, he takes his reason with him and no one will ever know why.

Odd story, just odd.


Diane Zwang | 1315 comments Mod
Read in 2016
4/5 stars

I was hooked from page one transported back to the gritty streets of Paris in the eighteenth century. Grenouille is an interesting character, lacking an odor himself but with a heightened sense of smell. He is led to a life of murder by a desire to obtain scents from young maidens. It is an interesting story that kept my attention to the end.

“Normally human odor was nothing special, or it was ghastly.”

“A murder had been the start of this splendor – if he was at all aware of the fact, it was a matter of total indifference to him. Already he could no longer recall how the girl from the rue des Marais had looked, not her face, not her body. He had preserved the best part of her and made it his own: the principle of her scent.”

“He Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, born with no odor of his own on the most stinking spot in this world, amid garbage, dung, and putrefaction, raised without love, with no warmth of a human soul, surviving solely on impudence and the power of loathing, small, hunchbacked, lame, ugly, shunned, an abomination within and without – he had managed to make the world admire him.”


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments 3 stars

Perfume by Patrick Suskind is one of the most unique books I have read and I think it is because he used the sense of smell rather than vision to tell his story. All the best books evoke my senses. I can see the countryside described so vividly by Hardy, and feel the damp fog on the moors in Daphne duMaurier's books. Sometimes I hear a shriek or cry of humans or animals, much like the wolves in Call of the Wild. I can taste the sweet treats baked up on the Joanne Fluke cozy mysteries and feel the bitter, biting, stinging cold wind described by Proulx in The Shipping News. But this may be the only book I have read that fully elicits my sense of smell.

This is the story of one man who can smell anything perfectly. Unfortunately his obsession with discovering and understand smell caused him to isolate from everything and everyone that didn't provoke him. His ability brought him first into the perfumery business which made for fascinating material, and then into murder, which was a disappointment. There was little surprise or shock in these murders. There was no mystery, and I wasn't invested in the chase to find the murderer. This part of the book let me down and I ended up reducing my rating by one star.


Valerie Brown | 645 comments Read Oct 2020

This book was excellent. Rich in detail, very imaginative, with a strange yet strangely compelling main character, Suskind has written a very readable novel. I liked the historic and geographic detail as well. You could follow Grenouille’s journey around France as he pursued his passion. I believe this is the only novel I’ve read that focuses on the sense of smell. That in itself made it very interesting. This is a relatively weak and neglected sense in humans, and I think it took a great deal of imagination to develop Grenouille as a olfactory genius. I listen to the audiobook narrated by Nigel Patterson, and would recommend this version. 5*


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