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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer Paperback – February 13, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Upon its publication last year in Germany Susskind's first novel Perfume immediately became an international best seller. Set in 18th-century France, Perfume relates the fascinating and horrifying tale of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a person as gifted as he was abominable. Born without a smell of his own but endowed with an extraordinary sense of smell, Grenouille becomes obsessed with procuring the perfect scent that will make him fully human. With brilliant narrative skill Susskind exposes the dark underside of the society through which Grenouille moves and explores the disquieting inner universe of this singularly possessed man. The translation is superb. Essential for literature collections. Ulrike S. Rettig, German Dept., Wellesley Coll., Wellesley, Mass.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


?A fable of criminal genius?. Remarkable."?The New York Times

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 255 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (February 13, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375725849
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375725845
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (670 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,392 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

256 of 272 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
In 18th century France, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, born with no scent of his own, but with with a supernatural ability to detect the scent of others is driven to murder in order to create the perfect perfume. This extraordinarily original premise encompasses the most elegant, aristocratic and erotic novel I have ever read. Flawlessly written and drenched in irony, Perfume tells a haunting tale of a man reminiscent of the Phantom of the Opera, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Beauty and the Beast (beast), and even Faust. Amd finally! A writer with enough talent to let us experience Grenouille's thoughts and emotions. Although, of course, identification with him is impossible, (Grenouille is the most chilling character in literature) I did manage to understand Grenouille's all-consuming passion, much to Suskind's credit. Suskind's prose is lush and evokative (the decadance of 18th century France simply comes alive) without spilling over into the purple prose of books like Violin or The English Patient. Perfume is a bizarre tale, but it is also lyrical and hypnotic--almost a fairy tale of terror. If you're looking for something different, something special, I highly recommend Perfume. The only other book I've found to equal it in originality is Jose Saramago's Blindness. Perfume, however, remains my alltime favorite.
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137 of 156 people found the following review helpful By Richard R on December 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
When the first english language version of "Perfume" was released in 1986, readers went crazy. Many placed it among the best books they'd ever read, myself included. A reread, fifteen years later yields a different, more muted, reaction. The book is good, very good. But it is not great.
"Perfume" succeeds so well because the premise is so startlingly novel. An olfactory genius in 18th-century Paris who can make a fortune creating perfumes more complicated and subtle than any ever made, is a sociopathic monster. Or as Suskind describes him, a "tick" who can roll up into a defensive ball or periodically drop himself into society. Grenouille is a compelling and disturbing character because Suskind has painted him in such realistic tones. Each effort to capture a new scent impels him farther, taking more chances and testing his limits, exploiting new techniques and his own criminal daring. This is true criminal pattern and makes Grenouille terrifyingly believable.
But the book can not be a great one, because Suskind's prose tends toward the overdone. Perhaps it reads better in the original German, but his maddening penchant for rephrasing and repeating the same notion and turning a sentence into a paragraph finally dulls the senses and sets the reader skimming along searching for the next important point.
The plot is so unique that it is brilliant. The execution is powerful, not only in Grenouille's characterization, but also because Suskind has done his homework and is smoothly at ease with 18th century mores and the science of perfume. But the squishy repetitive prose and unfocused paragraphs keep "Perfume" from joining the ranks of literary masterpieces.
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53 of 59 people found the following review helpful By RMurray847 VINE VOICE on April 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
Almost impossible to describe, PERFUME is one of the oddest and most unique books you'll ever read. Set centuries ago, if follows the life of a very emotionally crippled child (later adult) with a hugely sensitive sense of smell. Our "hero" becomes a master perfume maker and almost becomes dangerously obsessed with making a perfume that captures the essence, the very purity of a lovely virgin. Weird, huh?
The book, though compared to "literature" by some of the reviews here, moves very quickly and doesn't feel difficult to read at all. It does take a lot of time telling you about the manufacture of perfumes, but to be quite honest, this stuff is VERY fascinating the way it is presented here.
The book has moments of dry humor, moments of drama, and moments of pure, over-the-top grotesqueness. You've never read a book with a main character anything remotely like this. You've never followed a plot at all similar. And the ending is unexpected as well. It's not exactly a "feel-good" read, but when you're done, you'll have the unusual feeling of having gone down a literary road that's never been traveled before.
Highly, highly recommended. Just keep an open mind!!!
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Saint Corgus on January 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
I first heard of this novel in conjunction with the release of the movie "Perfume" and after reading some complimentary material from Roger Ebert about the original written work (translated from the German) I decided to give this story a try. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the story itself is very accessible & well written, and that the murders described on the book jacket are not where Suskind turns his graphic focus. Grenouille (sp?), the murderer, is a unique character. He is blessed (cursed?) with an incredible sense of smell and the ability to store any scent he encounters in the vaults of his memory for repeated enjoyment later. Think of him as a "scent savant." Furthermore, he has no smell of his own - no body odor, nothing. After surviving a less-than-ideal birth and subsequent rearing at the hands of wetnurses, monks, and tanners, He becomes an apprentice perfume maker and helps his mentor become one of the most popular perfumers in France by using his unique gifts to create evocative perfumes that dazzle the senses and sell for great sums of money. However, as Grenouille learns the perfumer's art we learn that his motives are suspect - scent is all he is concerned with, and he wants to learn to distill and extract odors of living things and objects, not just flowers and other plants used in perfuming. From there, the book follows G's relationship with scent and how he covets the life essence of young women, leading to a self-initiated hermitage, subsequent murder spree, and eventually a spectacular resolution of the plot. If you are wary of this book because you are not one who wants to read about graphic mutilations and "CSI" like corpse descriptions, then by all means don't worry. The murders are not the story...Read more ›
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