Sunday, 20 April 2014

Book of the Week: Perfume - The Story Of A Murderer

"Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions or will. The persuasive power of an door cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it."

OK, you got me. I judged a book by it's cover. I picked up Perfume by Patrick Suskind on a recent trip to Waterstones simply because it looked so pretty on it's shelf (or maybe it smelled good, who really even knows anymore)! Upon further perusal of the blurb, I was sold - I had to buy it and read all about this weird perversion of perfume. And honestly, I've never read anything like it before.  Despite being the story of a murderer, it's such a fun and interesting read. Admittedly a little strange, but completely unique, I was totally absorbed by a fantasy tale of perfumeries, grotesqueness and desire.

A strange little tome about a strange little man, Perfume documents the meanderings of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. Born without a scent, society is unnerved by his perturbing presence, if they even notice him at all, and his supernatural smelling talent leads him on a twisted journey to hunt down the most perfect fragrance on the planet, even if that means partaking in a spot of murder along the way.

The intriguing notion that fuels the book is that scent has a much more profound effect on society than we are aware of. As well as Grenouille being considered an outcast due to his lack of smell, he is alone in the knowledge that the most beautiful of people are not attractive to us because of their good looks, but because of their enticing aroma. We only think that their appearance is what's beautiful because we consider sight to be the most predominant of the senses. I found this to be such an interesting concept that, although it's just a work of fiction, I got to thinking about all of the things that are made that much more attractive to me because of their fragrant beauty. Flowers, for example, or a slice of apple pie: both have their own aesthetic appeal, both are enhanced by their inviting bouquet.

The book itself is also written in a really unique way, something I found pleasantly peculiar. The dark, twisted tale is communicated in such an upbeat, lighthearted, almost humorous manner, which I found made it even more entertaining. Grenouille treats his murder victims, not as people, but as living vessels for alluring fragrances. And so the language in which they are treated, although rather alarming, is so abstract that you almost forget how harrowing the act is. I've never seen killing dealt with in such an interesting way, making this one of the most fascinatingly abnormal books I have ever read. 

If you're looking for something a little different to read, I would really recommend you pick up this weird and wonderful tale. A little worrying in places, brilliant in others, and witty throughout, I loved everything about this fragrant feast of a fantasy, and I'll definitely be looking into other works by this German gem of a writer!

Have you read Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer? What is your favourite perfume based read? Let me know! 


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  1. ahhh! i've been wanting to read this for ages, definitely going to have to pick it up now! x

  2. I love that your blog is a mixture of beauty and books because they are both my favourites too! I will definitely be buying some of the books you've been reading for my kindle!