Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Book Review: Perfume

Author: Patrick Suskind
Title: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Description: Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born in eighteenth-century France with two unusual traits. First, he has no scent (this leads all of his foster mothers to reject him); second, he has the best sense of smell in history. He can smell anything , anyone; he remembers every smell; he desires to create new scents and perfumes and learns everything he can about them. Unfortunately, this, combined with his lack of human emotions, leads him to take, well, rather extreme steps to collect scents that he covets.
Plot: This isn’t a mystery, nor is it a thriller. The best I can describe it would be that it is the book that results when the author asks himself, “What if there were a person who cared only about what he smelled?”
Characters: All of the major characters in the book are repulsive. Grenouille himself does not seem human.
Writing style: What I really enjoyed about this book was the description of smells of all sorts. In this way, it seemed to do for smells what Ann Patchett does for music in Bel Canto.  In other words, sometimes an author can write about one specific thing in a way that seems revelatory to me, and that’s what Suskind does here. Also, I was really interested in the details about perfume creation in the eighteenth century.
Audience: Literary fiction.
Wrap-up: I was riveted by this book for the writing, not for the characters, which is usually the case with me. 4/5*

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