Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Book Review: "Perfume -The Story of a Murderer" by Patrick Suskind

(First order of business, pretend there's an umlaut about the u is Suskind, I can't figure out how to make one)

After you read this book you will never look at your bottle of perfume again. (Or if you're a guy your pressurized can of whatever it is that is in there...)

What secrets do you hold random bottle of perfume ?!?
This story (originally in German) centers around a unfortunate creature named Grenouille. (Grenouille means frog in French. I know this from watching NCIS). He's born in 1732, while his mother is at work at a fish stall at a busy Parisian market. She's had 3 previous still-births while working so she just births him, cuts the umbilical cord and throws the body on a top of discarded fish heads. Luckily about this time the police come by and rescue him. (His mother is charged with infanticide and is later beheaded).

At his new home at a church ran orphanage the wet nurses don't like their new charge. He eats too much and he smells like nothing. This makes them all refuse to care for the child no matter how much the priest offers them. The priest cuddles the baby, fantasizing about impossible fatherhood but then the baby wakes up. Greouille stares at the priest and takes long purposeful sniffs of him. This really freaks out the priest (he feels like he can smell the sins on his soul) and he quickly takes the baby to another orphanage outside of town.

After a time at the orphanage (where all the children are scared of  him but they don't know why) the 7-year old orphan is set to apprentice at a tannery. During his time there he is treated, at best, like a working animal. However this is about the time he discovers his olfactory gift. He wanders the city, in his very infrequent down time, and absorbs all the smells. Soon he can wander the whole streets of Paris with his eyes closed.I think that it's interesting that he doesn't think of a smell as good or bad. He's just as eager to smell "a sweaty horse" as a "lard laden roast."

One night Grenouille smells a scent he has never smelt before and it stops him cold. He chases the smell for a mile until he finds the source. It's a young girl, about 13 who is slicing fruit in a quiet back street. He stands quietly behind her trying to soak in her smell, but she sees him and panics. He ends up strangling her, this is his first but not last murder.

After apprenticing at a failing perfumiary (thats probably not the right word and/or spelling) and revitalizing it, he disappears into the woods and lives in a cave for 7 years.He emerges looking like a caveman but is brought in to the house of a local aristocrat.More murders follow: all fresh, young, virginal girls. Grenouille gets caught and then the crazy twist ending comes up. The last 50 pages are awesome and insane. I really want to tell you about it but I don't want to spoil it for you so I will give you some keywords to intrigue you.

Public orgy (yep)
Botched execution

To be fair only two of these happen at the same time. Yeah...

I give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. Grenouille is an interesting character who you feel sorry for in the beginning but then you're pretty sure he's a mad man towards the end. The writing is easy and flows well even though it's translated from German, sometimes I get wary of translations it can get hairy. It packs a good punch for a short book, about 255 pages. And this book made me think of when I was in a perfume factory in Paris years and years ago so it gave me the warm fuzzies that way too. This book is also a movie, but it's in French so get ready to get your subtitles on.

Be sure to check in on the blog on Saturday, there's a giveaway going down with that book review!

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