“He who ruled scent ruled the hearts of men.”
The Perfume is one of my all-time-favorite books, I never got around to properly review it and even though my words will not do the book justice, here it is; I read this book back in high school and to this day I can pretty much quote the whole thing, that’s how many times I’ve re-read it and each time I get chills and this amazing sense of having read a book that paints the most vivid images.
Jean-Baptiste Grenouille was born without a scent. But he had a unique gift of being able to smell and be aware of every object’s scent, those known to man and those unknown. His mother, who was working at the market gutting fish, just gave bird to him between her fish duties, pushed him away from her and into the fish guts and went back to work without giving him a second thought. From that point on, Jean-Baptiste’s life was a string of unfortunate events and orphan homes but life can’t be easy when others, even children notice someone’s lack of odor and their fascination with scents, all kinds of scents, even thing that people don’t want to be smelling, like grass, rust, mud.
“I don’t mean what’s in the diaper. His soil smells, that’s true enough. But it’s the bastard himself, he doesn’t smell.”
Throughout his life he is passed from one person to another as a worker, or sold more like it, until he ends up working for a tannery in Paris which brings him into contact with a known perfume shop owner; Jean-Baptiste has literally found heaven on Earth. There he learns the basic of perfumes, the top note, the middle and the base. He learns how perfume is made, how he can preserve every scent he wants, which brings the story to its crime genre twist.
So when he randomly smells something so exquisite, he follows that smell and sees a woman; he’s natural instinct urges him to keep that smell, he is not done smelling it and that’s where he’s obsession with creating the most powerful scent known to man, begins.
“He had preserved the best part of her and made it his own: the principle of her scent.”
Apart from the vivid imagery, this book has an amazing crime and horror combination with a mystery twist. When Jean-Baptiste’s killings start forming a pattern, everyone is set to find the killer is seemingly going after virgins and performs weird rituals that leave the girls naked and with chopped hair. But Jean-Baptiste is not backing down and he is on a mission to get this done, no matter what. And he does.
“There was only one thing the perfume could not do. It could not turn him into a person who could love and be loved like everyone else. So, to hell with it he thought. To hell with the world. With the perfume. With himself.”
This journey of creating scent has a sad undertone of him wanting to re-create himself; this is a boy that his entire life has been meaningless. He was unwanted from the moment he took his first breath and he continues to lead a life that touches no one and he is not leaving his mark in the world, not even his scent.
“He realized that all his life he had been a nobody to everyone. What he now felt was the fear of his own oblivion. It was as though he did not exist.”
To this day despite my huge reading list I have yet to read a book that gave me chills but left me in awe at the same time. This book is hauntingly beautiful. So vivid and so powerful in the images that the author manages to bring to life. The whole time while reading this, my mind was so high on all the feels and even though the era is rather filthy, seeing it through Jean-Baptiste’s eyes and reading it with the love and adoration he had for everything in this world, literally he was fascinated by every little thing that touched the ground or not, I can honestly say, this went above and beyond. No matter your genre preferences, this book is it. You can also enjoy the excellent movie!