I read Perfume: The Story of a Murderer for my German class last year. We had to read it in German, but it was way too hard for me to do it. So I ended up buying it in French. I chose to read this book because I saw the movie adaptation when I was about 14 (it gave me nightmares afterward). And it was a great but gruesome movie. So I thought that the book should at least be entertaining.
He succeeded in being considered totally uninteresting. People left him alone. And that was all he wanted.
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. He becomes obsessed with capturing the smells of objects such as brass doorknobs and fresh-cut wood. Then one day, he catches a hint of a scent that will drive him on an ever-more-terrifying quest to create the “ultimate perfume.” The smell of a beautiful young virgin.
The book was terrific! I loved the detailed description we get each time Grenouille travels or discovers a new scent. It was one of my favorite books of 2015. Because it pulled me completely into the story so that, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t stop reading for a minute without feeling in need to read more of it, to know more of it.
I think that it’s through that that the author manages to make us feel like Grenouille. He has to know every scent in the world and possess them. And we, readers, have to know what happens next, to read, the book was like an addiction from the first pages.
I loved the setting of France during the 18th century. It was one of the most significant centuries of change in French history. And the author, even though he was German, managed to capture those changes in his story and into the character of Grenouille. He doesn’t fit anywhere. And when he tries to live on his own, he begins to unravel, to fall apart physically. And I think that it’s the perfect metaphor for modern society, that we can’t do everything really on our own without losing a part of ourselves.
I would recommend this book to everyone first because it is a classic book of German literature. And then because it is one of the most well-written novels that I have ever read, for a class or pleasure. The story has the power to captivate anyone, and even though it’s sometimes really graphic or gruesome, it is worth it.