Read of the Week: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind

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Our latest Read of the Week comes recommended by Reader Leader Jo. Have you read Perfume: Story of a Murder by Patrick Süskind?

…or why should earth, landscape, air – each filled at every step and every breath with yet another odour and thus animated with another identity – still be designated by just those three coarse words. All these grotesque incongruities between the richness of the world perceivable by smell and the poverty of language were enough for the lad Grenouille to doubt that language made any sense at all.

Patrick Süskind, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Grenouille, described as a ‘tick’, born under a table dripping with fish guts in an 18th century fetid Parisian fish market, has an acute sense of smell but no odour of his own.

The descriptions of smells, scents, stenches, aromas, etc., just leap off the page. The manufacturing processes of scent is fascinating, and how Grenouille hides his disgust for humanity, whilst manipulating them so he can achieve his goal of the ultimate scent is both thrilling and disturbing.

This is not a book I would have thought was for me, but ever since I first read it over 20 years ago, I have loved it. It taught me not to be rigid in what I think I will like or dislike in literature.

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