“He succeeded in being considered totally uninteresting. People left him alone. And that was all he wanted.”
18th Century France, Grenouille is a man who has no human scent or body odor but is gifted with a very sharp sense of smell. He has the gift of recognizing and creating smells that would appeal to other people. He works as an apprentice perfumer and journeyed to explore all available human scents in Paris. He wanted to have a scent of his own. A scent that would give him the body odor that every person has that he did not have. It was his desire to be one of them that he makes concoctions of various perfumes to find a human scent that would make him smell like everyone else.
I think my head has stopped spinning enough for me to say why this book is absolutely phenomenal. The book follows the life of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (
a f*cking name and a half) born in the late 1700s Paris in a very dark period where sanitation facilities and pollution were not at the best state.
(Fair warning foul descriptions at every page)
With a remarkable gift of super scent and being odorless is the only thing that is going for him. This gift comes at a huge cost as it drives him to sort out the perfect perfume and it will come at a cost of someone else’s life.
“Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.”
Words I would use to describe my experience reading this book “Intoxicating & Complex” For such a short book it really had a depth of a thousand pages. The character study was one of the strong points of the book, using scent as a perspective to explore power, obsession, perfection and so much more was just mind-blowing. The idea of how lonely perfection can be was an interesting POV, how as humans we desperately try to fill that emptiness but in the end, it just grows wider& disintegrates till we àre left as empty vessels. As I was following this person slowly evolving into this monster I found myself feeling sympathetic towards him because that feeling of emptiness was what was driving him to commit these atrocities. His view of the world was just so dark and depressing leading him to become so introverted and isolated with no idea of what is good or bad.
*Don’t go into this book expecting a fast paced thriller*
“He possessed the power. He held it in his hand. A power stronger than the power of money or the power of terror or the power of death: the invincible power to command the love of mankind. There was only one thing that power could not do: it could not make him able to smell himself.”
The writing was where it got really juicy, I honestly thought this book was published in the early 1900s because of the slow descriptive atmospheric prose but it was actually translated in 1990s and the translator did an incredible job. The Gothic setting was just everything and this wasn’t the conventional “murder mystery” it was a slow build up that really engulfed me placiñg me dead center into the time period. Totally caught by surprise with a scent driven book and I will be haunted by it for a long time, I can’t wait to reread this modern classic again 👌
trust me you will never meet any character or premise like this one so bloody unique.
Thank you for reading
So until next time stay Bookish 😉