Friday, 30 July 2010
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind
This is a very unusual book. Grenouille is born into unusual circumstances and then abandoned in Paris during the eighteenth century. He discovers that he has an acute sense of smell and eventually becomes obsessed with bottling the most exquisite fragrance he has ever smelt; that of a young virgin. In order to get this smell he practices on plenty of other girls, killing them in the process. Yep I told you it was unusual.
Grenouille himself is a horrible human being. He is devoid of any personality and of his own smell, people seem to instinctively know there is something strange about him as they draw back whenever he comes near or go out of their way to avoid him. It is this that causes Grenouille to seek out his own 'scent'. Why this scent has to be that of a young virgin I think is purely about Grenouille's ego and greed.
The book is told very much in the style of a grim fairytale with beautiful prose which given the subject matter and the time period worked perfectly. The story had some scientific stuff thrown in with regards to the making of perfume. Some people I'm sure will find this boring but I personally found it fascinating. I enjoyed reading how the perfume makers extracted scent from Roses etc. in order to then use the scent as a tiny component in a perfume.
My main gripe with this book however is the lack of character interaction. I never felt as if I knew Grenouille as a person nor the young virgin who's smell he hopes to capture. Because of this I failed to actually care about any of them and none of the characters that Grenouille came across 'jumped off the page' for me.
The ending was fitting but I'm sure I missed something in it. I was sure the ending was going to have some kind of meaning or lesson given the style of the book but I felt as though I was left with nothing here.
Would I recommend it? Well I didn't dislike this book but nor did I especially like it either. Its worth reading for the wonderful style and unusualness and to make your own mind up.
Posted by Jess