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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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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Oddly entertaining Nov. 13 2002
Perfume is a novel I probably never would have chosen off the shelf. With that said, the reader knows that I am perhaps biased in many ways. This book was a bookclub selection that apperared under the category of historical fiction.
The story begins with the birth of Jean Baptiste-Grenouille. He is left to die by his mother as she delivers him in her stall at the farmer's market. Grenouille has to be one of the strangest characters ever created. He is repulsive to all his caretakers and is likened by the author to a tick. Grenouille is born with a phenomonal sense of smell but, alas, has no smell of his own.
The reader follows Grenouille through his life and his search for the perfect smell that will make him more human, make him loved and ultimately accepted. Here the plot twists and turns into the most unlikely and downright strange scenarios I have ever read, concluding with what one can only describe as the most unbelieveable ending of all time.
The writing is superb and it is the only reason I continued to read such a convoluted tale. The historical detail and recreation of eighteenth century France was phenomenal. The attention to the smells of that period was nothing short of amazing. Patrick Suskind has written an amazingly odd story that you will not likely read any where else.
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5.0 out of 5 stars PRIMAL & UNFORGETTABLE March 26 2010
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 Suskind's masterpiece only yesterday.

The story unfolds effortlessly and you are made to simply accept Grenouille's unique gift, life-long obsession and bittersweet curse. Olfaction is a mysterious sense to begin with. It is atavistic, inescapably emotional and resistant to mnemonic recall. And Suskind expertly builds on these fleeing attributes a robust story, one that brings to mind first experiences and reticent desires and concealed fears.

The book is not only majestic but it is also set in a biblical-like footing. The protagonist treads through life like a forgettable ghost. Then he goes into an intense self-exile, fasting in a cave before coming into the wold to fulfill his mission. And even though his mission is as ethereal and ephemeral as a passing scent, no one will be able to forget him.

The movie was a good adaptation but it does not even compare to the book.

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4.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing and uneasy tale Sept. 6 2009
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. Well written, definitely.

This is the story of Grenouille, a baby born without hopes and left on a pile of rubbish by his own mother. Certain death, especially in 1738, would be expected but does not happen. Against all odds, Grenouille survives and grows up with a very distinctive feature: his olfactory system. From infancy, no scent, no smell, unpleasant or otherwise, escapes his nostrils. He categorizes each one of them and an endless sort of data base is stored in his brain.
A very inconspicuous fellow, without distinctive features, he is able to survive in a world that has deceived him from day one. And in turn, in his profound uneasiness, he becomes the deceiver. Little by little he starts to realise that his olfactory ability is indeed something that could turn useful, one day. Something for which people would appreciate him perhaps. Real love, real affection, he does not know. Perhaps he yearns for it. But in reality, he loathes people and is comfortable in his loneliness. And one day (he's about 12 by now) he picks up a faint scent in the air that he cannot name but gives him an incredible yearning. An irresistible urge to find the source of that scent and an infallible nose lead him to that source.....

From then on, a lot else happens. And Grenouille, that fragile, plain, indistinct, shadowy and secretive being takes us from one side of France to the next on a twisted olfactory errand. It is impossible not to be awed by this very distinctive feature of his. With it, when `utilized' properly, he is able to do wonders.
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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 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic
I would put this book in the category of a classic. It is chilling, memorable and frightening. Suskind is a story telling master. I could not put the book down. Read more
Published on June 21 2004 by Barb - Arizona
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique Perspective
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. Read more
Published on June 19 2004 by Michelle Achee
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