Perfume꞉ Penguin Modern Classics


Read Time: 2 Minutes

I first read and loved this years ago, back when Penguin started releasing their line of classic books with the orange and white covers. I’d not thought of it since until I found it in a recent two-for-one sale, so I grabbed a copy to give it another go.

Aside from the broad strokes, I’d actually forgotten much of what happened. I still rather enjoyed it, but parts did seem to drag on more than I remembered. One part in particular where a mentor complains endlessly for about 10 minutes straight was a chore.

That aside, this is a great, if somewhat disturbing, story. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is a most interesting character. A sociopath with an something like an eidetic memory for scents.

Abandoned for dead by his mother amid fish guts and shit, he is left with the church for them to sort out. From there he bounces around, mainly because his absolute lack of body odour makes people feel uneasy around him, as he didn’t feel like a real person.

Disasters seems to follow him, from his former tanning master, his perfumery teacher, plus his own general awkwardness and distaste for human interaction drives him into weird situations. While Grenouille shows some growth through the life of the book, he’s still singularly focussed on creating the perfect perfume that will make people like him, love him, and generally abide all his wishes.

The whole thing with killing young girls on the cusp of puberty was kind of weird. Right when they’re maturing from child to women is where he is most interested. Nothing is sexual with him though, he wants to capture their scent and not interested in their bodies for anything else.

After being enraptured by a young virgin girl many years ago, once he stumbles upon someone with an even more sublime smell, he does what he must to get it and similar scents from others. His skill grows and creates scents to control people as needed, whether to ignore him or treat him with reverence. All in the pursuit of the perfect perfume.

Narration by Sean Barrett was excellent. I assume that all the French pronunciations were correct, not being a native speaker, but his voice is very easy to listen to. A few minor background noises scattered throughout. Nothing too bad but enough to make a note of.

Told in the third person, not a whole lot of dialogue because it’s all mostly from Grenouille’s point of view, and he doesn’t talk much. Overall, a great story that’ll I’ll revisit again in the future.


Murder, Thriller, Historical, Male Narrator, Perfume, France
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