Perfume – Patrick Suskind


Chosen by Nicole

Perfume is a a cross-genre novel about Jen-Baptiste Grenouille, a Frenchman with no body scent who murders virgins and turns them into perfurme.

Jean-Baptiste is born into eighteenth-century France, abandoned by his mother and doomed to live life as an orphan. He has a superior sense of smell and no personal odour of his own. In order to both create a scent for himself and create the prefect scent, he turns into a cold and calculating murderer. He is motivated in particular by one young woman whose scent he desires to possess.

Jean-Baptiste becomes an apprentice and then a master perfumer with all the interesting skills and techniques of the original perfumery trade detailed. The beauty and skill of perfumery is portrayed in such an intoxicating and romantic manner it is a joy to learn about the creation of each and every scent and infact often side tracked us readers from remembering Jean-Baptiste is a murderer and a psychopath.

This scent had a freshness, but not the freshness of limes or pomegranates, not the freshness of myrrh or cinnamon bark or curly mint or birch or camphor or pine needles, not that of a May rain or a frosty wind or of well water… and at the same time it had warmth, but not as bergamot, cypress, or musk has, or jasmine or daffodils, not as rosewood has or iris… This scent was a blend of both, of evanescence and substance, not a blend, but a unity, although slight and frail as well, and yet solid and sustaining, like a piece of thin, shimmering silk… and yet again not like silk, but like pastry soaked in honey-sweet milk – and try as he would he couldn’t fit those two together: milk and silk! This scent was inconceivable, indescribable, could not be categorised in any way – it really ought not to exist at all. And yet there it was as plain and splendid as day.

❖ “It sounds gruesome but the story is so well developed I kind of fell into it without realising how obscene it actually was. When you find yourself not only accepting the deeds of a psychopath but seeing the beauty in them, you know the book is well written! Totally riveting and obscene and beautiful and gruesome all at once. I loved it, though this is probably not a book for everyone.” – Rachel


Published 1985
Hamish Hamilton (UK)
263 pages

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: