• Natalia Albin

BOOK: Perfume The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind


Perfume is a visceral, dark and almost irrational book - disguised by the rationality of Grenouille, our main character -. The writing is beautiful and doesn't hold back on descriptiveness, which is probably one of the most important parts of this book given the significance of conveying scent through words on a page.

From the very start it's about the odors: Grenouille is born in disgusting smell, in the most putrid parts of France, even though he has no scent of his own. His life from then on becomes fully controlled by his sense of smell. Every odor is described to us in unimaginable ways: what does a worm in a flower smell of? Until Grenouille realises he has no scent of his own - now that is almost unbearable to him, and also the source of his greatest power.

I will say if you're expecting a crime-filled book of murders, it's probably going to underwhelm you. I found that for most of the book, where I was reading a whole lot about perfume-making and Grenouille's need for being alone, but not a whole lot of crime. I suppose, however, the last third of the book does make up for that and it becomes much more of a page turner (without ever leaving behind the descriptive elements of the first two parts).

This book becomes worth it, fully, by the ending. It is one of the weirdest endings I've ever encountered and I thankfully haven't seen the film so it caught me completely by surprise. It's senseless and somehow makes complete sense. It gives the whole theme of the book a final, golden bow: odor controls humans so fully we don't even realise it.

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