Creepy, amazing, beautifully written, with another dose of creepy.
Perfume is the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, who is born into absolute poverty, but is gifted with an extraordinary sense of smell. The book describes his life, beginning with his birth in a fish market (his mother gives birth to him under her fish stall and then leaves him there) to his totally bizarre death. In between, Grenouille becomes obsessed with preserving scents – human scents in particular, because Grenouille does not have a scent. He is especially obsessed with preserving the scents of beautiful young girls, and discovers that the best way to do this is to kill them, then wrap their bodies in oil-soaked cloths and then distill the oils to get the essential oils of each girl’s scent.
That’s where the creepy part comes in. Grenouille is methodical and completely emotionless when it comes to killing – he barely even looks at his victims, and focuses only on their smell. The girls themselves never get to be more than victims – Laure, the girl whose scent Grenouille is most obsessed with obtaining, is probably only given a name so we can distinguish her from the twenty-five other girls Grenouille kills, and she never gets so much as a single word of dialogue. The reader never gets to learn anything about her personality or if she can even walk unassisted – she and the other girls in the story exist only as scents and pretty faces, and this makes it really hard to feel anything when Grenouille kills them. I know the author did this on purpose, and I’m still trying to decide if I liked it or not.
That being said, I still really liked this story. It’s a horror story from beginning to end, and a good one at that. Read it for that nice “I-feel-like-less-of-a-human-being-for-enjoying this” feeling.
Verdict: four out of five stars