Review of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind

Instinctively my hand just wants to type out all the aspects of this book that were just downright weird but that would be spoiling it so here’s a quick review on Perfume (with a struggling attempt to leave out the spoilers).

I understand and it can be proven through my experiences that the context in which a book is received could have a strong impact on the way it is interpreted. So I feel it only fair to let you know that it may have done so on this occasion. Let me explain…

This book is part of my course material and so under a very strict time frame (due to my own faults) I was forced to read it hence I may have disliked some parts more than others merely because of the pressure I felt to finish the book as fast as possible.

With all that being said, Perfume turned out to be an interesting novel.  I said weird to begin with because it falls into the category of a kind of gothic/fantasy so naturally if there wasn’t the feeling of uncanny I would be confused for that matter.

It was weird in that the unexpected waited around the corner just when you think you are able to predict what is going to happen. You may ask why is that weird, that’s a good thing. You’re right it is a good thing but it gives you the feeling that you can never really tell what kind of character Grenouille is albeit having been given all the information about him.This does, thankfully change as you go on. You start to feel more comfortable with him as the protagonist.

The narrative is also surprising as it goes so deep into the lives of each character but then very quickly disregards them too.

Now, there is death and then there is death and sometimes I wonder if authors like Süskind had written this novel from first hand experiences due to the sinister narrative tone. A lot of the novels I have read recently in which such gruesome or sinister themes occur, are presented through omniscient narrators and it is a bit eery. In my opinion this allows you to become the narrator and essentially it’s like you are telling the story. With Perfume however, there were a number of time while reading that I stopped and thought, woah, this guy (Grenouille) is messed up – but then again they all are.

One thing I really enjoyed about this novel was its descriptive language. It’s all sensual -once you begin to read you will understand why- but being a different type of description from normal, it was not only unusual to get used to but also a bit overbearing to begin with. You do get used to it eventually though.

I did not, enjoy parts in the middle that seemed unrealistic even for a fantasy, these were usually the parts where detail was absent. Other parts that ruined my reading was the boring repetition of Grenouille’s desire but this wasn’t too often so I managed to push through.

In terms of plot, it is defined at the beginning and on through Grenouille’s early years, what he wishes to do but it was hard for me to see the purpose of the story and the message that it conveyed. The message taken away can really be anything you mean it to be once you reach the end. There is a vague one given by Süskind, but it can be taken, left or even changed depending on your will.

From all I can remember at this point in time, I think this concludes this review but please feel free to ask any questions that you may have in case I am forgetting something. My overall rating would be 4 stars and I would recommend it as an intermediate read.

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