September 5, 2022 8:12 AM - Subscribe

From the Inside Flap: 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...
posted by bearette (4 comments total)
Quite a remarkable book. The English translation is exceptional: the story does a terrific job of describing Grenouille's "view" of the world. My favorite bit was how one father, sensing that his daughter might become a possible victim of the killer, goes to great lengths to conceal and protect her. And Grenouille, because of his gifts, finds her without even realizing that she's supposed to be hidden.
posted by SPrintF at 8:37 AM on September 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

I loved the book right up until the end, which I found to be a bit overwrought. Of course I haven't read it in ages, so I might be mis-remembering, but it seemed like suddenly the story was taken away by one of the high school kids in Superbad. The story is going along and all of a sudden it changes into everybody just going nuts and banging each other. I don't know, I felt like it was kind of a weird and sophomoric tone change.
posted by Literaryhero at 7:27 PM on September 5, 2022

I read this book when it was first published, and a couple more times over the years. It's always stuck with me as such a good/bad book; the good parts are the fascinating detail about chemistry and perfumery and the many uses (perfumed saddles?!), where ingredients come from. The bad parts are pretty much as Literaryhero, above, points out-- it becomes this ridiculous (overwrought is perfect word) premise. Plus, it's silly-- if these girls smell so good, wouldn't you get lots more product by constantly stealing their scent while they're alive? Bribe the maids for their bed linens and clothing? Finding another batch of nice smelling young ladies on a regular basis. Then I imagine he becomes a very rich perfumer to yucky rich people who smell bad (because we gotta go with those tropes about people not bathing) and he lives way up in a tower so he doesn't have to smell the rest of humanity.
posted by winesong at 10:34 AM on September 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

I had the same question about why the murders were necessary- why not steal their scent while they're alive, so it doesn't run out which he was worried about? Also, the descriptions of virginal pubescent girls became creepy and it was not explained why all of the victims fit that profile- just seemed like some of the author's creepiness to me.

That being said, it really is a unique book. I liked the descriptions of perfumes and it really made me ponder Grenouille's psychology. It seemed to me that he was trying in his own way for his life to have some meaning, or some type of connection (hence why he tries so hard to become human by creating a human scent) but when he fails, as he realizes people love his scent and not him, then life loses meaning. At least, that's how I interpreted it.

The orgy scene was weird.
posted by bearette at 12:09 PM on September 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

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