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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Penguin Modern Classics) [Paperback]

4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (125 customer reviews)

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First Sentence
In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FEE, FIE, FOE, FUM... March 1 2003
By Lawyeraau TOP 100 REVIEWER
This is a novel so beautifully written that it transcends into literature. Ingenious in its conception and carefully crafted, the author has created a unique and dazzling work of fiction. Divided into three parts, the book tells the story of a most unusual life, that of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille.
The first part of the book establishes that he was born to a woman who was hung from a gibbet for having left him to die. It turns out that Jean-Baptiste is an unusual baby. He gives people the willies, because, unlike most babies, Jean-Baptiste has no scent.
Over time, Jean-Baptiste develops into a boy with a secret gift. His olfactory sense is developed to a degree unheard of in humans. He delights in parsing the odors around him. Ugly, friendless, and a loner, he eventually ventures into the city of Paris, a malodorous and pungent cornucopia of smells. Believe me, there is plenty to sniff out in eighteenth century Paris! Jean-Baptiste savors each whiff, and the book conveys these olfactory delights with meticulous, descriptive precision.
His bleak existence is transformed, however, when he one day captures a heady scent of such exquisite beauty that he finds himself obsessed with it. Determined to have that scent at all costs, he eventually sniffs it out. It turns out to be the scent of a young virgin on the cusp of flowering into a woman. It is a scent that he must possess. What he does to do so will surely chill the reader.
Jean-Baptiste eventually maneuvers to get himself apprenticed to a perfumer, so that he can have the opportunity to learn the trade and create scents. He leads a bleak existence, subsisting as little more than a slave to the perfumer for whom he works.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Unique Perspective June 19 2004
There really is no way to go in-depth into the book without giving away it's secrets (which are marvelous.) It's really a very simple tale. What's extraordinary about it is how startlingly Mr. Suskind changes the normal point of view of the average reader. One usually picks up a book and is swept away on a narrative based on visual, and sometimes auditory, interpretations. This book, however, reaches a deeper, more primitive level - the olfactory level. It's disturbing, in a way, because it feels three dimensional and is far more universal that mere sight or sound. For example, if someone said "the blue ocean," many people would see different shades of blue in their mind. However, when Mr. Suskind describes the particular scent of an 18th century fish market in Paris during the peak of summer, one's nose begins to crinkle and twitch with an uncanny recognition (even though we've never been to Paris, or a fish market nor traveled to the 18th century.) We're THERE. The visual images that follow are more similar to those of memory rather than fiction. The entire book is written in this manner. Sometimes it's a difficult read because it can be overwhelming. But, it's an extraordinary and completely unique experience.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The witty, horrific, sad tale of a perverted soul April 11 2004
This is the story of an orphan in 17th century France, Grenouille, who is possessed of an extraordinary sense of smell. He can smell a person coming before he can see them. He can pick the constituents of a perfume by one whiff, and their proportions. As if in recompense for this, he lacks most other basic human senses. He does not feel fear, pain, is unable to become attached to other humans, and ironically, has no personal odour.
Thus "Perfume" tells of Grenouille's attempts to use his sense of smell to make up for what he lacks, particularly the feeling of love. He has been exploited and patronised through most of his life, enduring it only in the knowledge that he will one day be a great, admired man, by creating a personal scent that people cannot resist. And he goes to extraordinary lengths to create this unique personal odour - as the book says, he is a murder. Collecting the personal odours of others and blending them for his own use.
And he succeeds. Where before he was not noticed by anyone, now people loose control in his presence. But in the end, what he thought would make him feel loved, only leaves him contemptous of those who are tricked by his scent.
Grenouille is cold-hearted, self-absorbed and has no regard for animal or human life. The violence is not portrayed graphically, but you get the import of it nonetheless. You will shake your head, unable to understand how someone could be so totally devoid of emotion. Seeing murder as no more than picking a flower for a perfume. But in the end, you pity Grenouille, because he failed in elliciting love, which is all he really ever wanted.
The book is written in a witty, easy to read style, and most of the content is anecdotes of Grenouille's childhood and working life. What made him want, and need to do what he did. Perfume keeps it's pace well, not flagging, and overall it is a highly highly entertaining, original read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An Intellectual thriller / horror novel Dec 2 2003
By A Customer
This book indeed does traverse down paths that have not often been covered, and the disposition of the protagonist is a delicious mix of what might be an unfortunante fate, as well as what seems to be pure evil and disinterest in humanity. He evokes feelings of sympathy in that he grew up in such a difficult situation, however, the whole while he seems so disinterested anyway one doubts whether it would have mattered if he grew up in the best of situations. In examining this aspect of the protagonist, the reader is forced to try to define what the nature of humanity is, and if there is one at all. In a unusual way, this book is not only unsettling but horrifying, especially in the way that even when horrified, I could not put it down - it had the quality of drawing you the way a car crash would, knowing full well that what you would see next would unsettle you, yet nevertheless being drawn to the morbid, inexplicable, unique and mysterious. You will not find a more unique horror story. This book has much to say about beauty, human nature, and the mechanations of the mind of a murder. I had a particularly interesting reaction, I think, to this book, in that it was left as an anonymous gift at my door, and that I happen to fit the profile of the young girls the murder most covets...
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An unforgettable rollercoaster of the senses
Although a work of literature, this novel transcends not only its genre, but its very form. PERFUME operates as a multi-sensory experience: you smell it, taste it, grow horrified... Read more
Published on Nov. 3 2011 by Tintin
4.0 out of 5 stars How many legs does a tick have?
A tick is an arachnid which has eight legs and not six like Patrick Suskind described in the book. It is just a minor detail that has been annoying me every since I read the book.
Published on Oct. 20 2010 by Monsieur Pie-pie
5.0 out of 5 stars PRIMAL & UNFORGETTABLE
How many books stay with you after a year? Five years? A decade? I remember reading THE PARFUME while in high school, about twenty years ago and it is as if I was immersed into... Read more
Published on March 26 2010 by NeuroSplicer
4.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing and uneasy tale
My opinion here is completely unbiased. I haven't seen the film and knew nothing about this story before I started the book.
A very unusual but gripping tale, I must say. Read more
Published on Sept. 6 2009 by I LOVE BOOKS
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastique!
Once I picked up this book I could not put it down. It's dark, absurd, unique, beautiful and disturbing all at once. I loved every bit of it.
Published on Nov. 24 2007 by Doobwa
1.0 out of 5 stars a sad sick story
Absolutly the worst most painful thing I have ever read. Having recieved it as a gift.I read it to the end Awaiting somthing redeeming in this miserable contrived tale to arise but... Read more
Published on Feb. 27 2007 by marlow
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent and compelling read
I'm a sucker for good endings and this book had one of the most absurd and glorious endings I have ever seen. Read more
Published on Aug. 20 2005 by James Nakagawa
5.0 out of 5 stars my favourite
This is still my favourite book (not that I'm a huge reader, so...). I read it without knowing anything about it, except that it was "great". Read more
Published on Nov. 2 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book, nevermind Lori Dee
This is a book not quite like any other you've read. That alone makes it worth reading, but you'll also love the character development, the intriguing personalities, and some of... Read more
Published on July 16 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Why you should get this book
There are some stories you just don't forget, even if you don't like them. This is one of those. It is not a happy fable, with a happy ending. Read more
Published on July 14 2004 by Keith M. Hamm
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