Review: Perfume by Patrick Süskind

perfumeOkay, so I HAD to read this one….The book was written in 1987, so it’s not a new book. I had never heard of it….however….for some reason all of a sudden I heard it mentioned 3 or 4 times within a month…I was determined to read it at this point…it had to be a sign right? So I tracked down an old paperback copy since it is not available on e-readers.

Well, I wish someone had told me it was full of symbolism. I seriously did not like this book. Don’t get me wrong…it has very high reviews and every time I mentioned it to someone who would tell me how smashingly brilliant it was….

Did I ever mention that the one class I never had to study for in high school was literature? Need I go further and tell you that I always started out wanting to read the stories we were assigned but once symbolism was sprinkled upon the pages I tuned out? Let’s take it a step further and confess that I passed many many a test having never read the book because of symbolism. I mean, really….if the story has been told dozens of times, why must we rehash it again and just substitute one object for another. I don’t think I’m so genius when it comes to symbolism. I just seemed to have a knack for knowing exactly what the author was trying to tell me without having to bother myself to read the book….this book was no different for me….once the main character
was caught, I knew at that second what was to happen… it was to end….

So what is the actually book about? I won’t tell you the symbolism…just in case you happen to like that sort of thing and wish to figure it out for yourself….This is a novel about Jean-Baptiste Grenouille born in the slums of France in the 18th century. Grenouille has an uncanny ability to remember every smell he encounters. He is able to peel the layers of odors apart and knows what they encompass. However, he has not “smell” of his own….He teaches himself the trade of perfumer. Along with no smell, he also possesses no real physical needs (other than the basic food and water needed in order to live). He doesn’t emphasize with people. He doesn’t love. He doesn’t feel a need to be accepted. He doesn’t socialize. He survives. Then it happens…In a single moment of time, Grenouille smells a scent he has never encountered before and seeks it out….a young, pure, innocent girl. He takes her life with no thought of all, just so he can relish in the smell of her. He then sets out to learn his trade in hopes that he can find some way to capture this scent as his own….

Read the novel if you want to know what happens at the end…and what does his lack of scent mean? And what is it he is actually seeking in his *special* perfume….

but this novel (and the reason chose to review it) did bring up a very interesting question in my mind. One that I had to put the book down and ponder it for quite a while. Where does our sense of smell come from? Why is it that certain scents warm our hearts? Make us drool (oh come on….am I the only one that drools over fresh-baked cookies?????) What makes some scents so unpleasant to us? Sure, we all know that if you work at a paper mill, the scent of those chemicals will make most people retch, but for that worker that collects his pay from the mill….well, it turns into a pleasant scent. We all also know that if we open a container of play doh that it doesn’t *really* smell good, but it does bring forth our fond memories of childhood. Don’t even get me started on what happens to me when I walk into a coffee shop! We all have smells that do that. Memories and scents are so closely connected…..however…..what about new scents? what about going into a new restaurant or a foreign country for the very first time? How does our sense of scent determine the new smells that we love and those that turn our stomach?

So although I didn’t care for the symbolism and all that, I can really appreciate a book that can make me stop and think….so there you go….

until next time….

Urania xx

Buy it now Perfume