I first heard about this book about twelve years ago from a co-worker who had loved it, and I thought it sounded interesting. I had too many books to read at the time so I put it on my mental to-read list and moved on. Fast forward about five years and while visiting Los Angeles I happened to see that it had been made into an independent movie and was being screened at the Cinerama Dome. Seeing the movie only made me want to read the book more, because as everyone knows, the book is always better than the movie, and the movie was excellent. I finally read the book last year when it was my turn to pick a book for my book club, and it did not disappoint.
The story follows Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, who is born with an extraordinary sense of smell, but without any odor of his own. Because of his lack of odor he is unconsciously ostracized by everyone he meets, but he is able to find a place for himself as an apprentice perfumer. As his skills grow, so does his need to create the perfect scent. One day he smells it – the flawless combination of fragrance that he has been searching for – emanating from a passing girl. He becomes obsessed with replicating her scent and discovering just how powerfully people are affected by the aromas around them.
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 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 brilliance, Perfume is a hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity.
Translated from the German by John E. Woods.