Pause, take a moment to gush over the beauty of this cover……..done? If you need more time, I understand…..Now, onto the review.
From the back cover:
‘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. His name was Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and if his name has been forgotten today, it is certainly not because Grenouille fell short of those more famous blackguards when it came to arrogance, misanthropy, immorality, or, more succinctly, wickedness, but because his gifts and his sole ambition were restricted to a domain that leaves no traces in history: to the fleeting realm of scent . . .’
I think this may be an unpopular opinion, but I didn’t love this book, I liked it but overall it left me feeling a little underwhelmed. Set in France, translated from the German by John E. Woods, Perfume tells the story of the life of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, who has a remarkable nose for scent, the ability to smell people from miles away – the only problem, he has no scent of his own. There’s not many scents Grenouille likes, so when he finds one he does, he’ll do anything to get it, even kill for it!
The opening of this book was fantastic, detailing Grenouille’s birth and younger years and including a murder or two. From the offset, the tone of this book was dark, the writing style – absorbing, even with its the slow pace. Born without an odour, Grenouille has the ability to control his identity, but you know what they say about a man born possessing no odour of his own:
“He’s possessed by the devil.”
The main theme in this book, if you haven’t guessed already, is perfume, in particular, Grenouille’s obsession with it and its ability to control people. Where I wanted the middle of this book to draw me into the story even more, I found it rather monotonous. A lot of the story is focused on the art of making perfume, Grenouille, as an apprentice to a great perfumer, learns the trade and puts his abilities to use to make some of the most wonderful perfumes the city has ever smelt. Due to the subtitle of the book ‘the story of a murderer’ – I was anticipating a lot more murder. Although the tone remained dark, I was still waiting for the story to grab me the way it did in its opening.
When I reached the last third of the book, it did just that, my interested increased and so did the body count! Without giving away the ending, I thought it was very clever, very fitting – to show the innate nature of people through the power of perfume, makes this a very unique read.
“He who ruled scent ruled the hearts of men.”
If you enjoy literary classics, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this book from cover to cover. If like me, you’re hoping this book falls into the historical crime classics category/genre, you may find this read underwhelming, as there is no mystery. Some have categorised this book as fantasy but I don’t think it falls into that category either, not in the traditional sense anyway. Overall, I gave this book a 3 star rating on Goodreads which means – I liked it – I’m glad I read it, however, I’d be cautious in recommending it to my fellow crime fiction lovers for reasons described above.