By Patrick Suskind,

Book cover of Perfume

Book description

An erotic masterpiece of twentieth century fiction - a tale of sensual obsession and bloodlust in eighteenth century Paris

'An astonishing tour de force both in concept and execution' Guardian

In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era…

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Why read it?

8 authors picked Perfume as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

A gruesome story of murder and desire that also happens to have the most vivid olfactory descriptions of any genre.

Suskind’s preternatural ability to summon odor from the page makes you feel as if you are there beside him, walking through the flowered hillsides of Provence, or in the back room of a perfume shop on the Pont au Change. His twisted use of classic perfume techniques is as accurate as it is chilling.

From Theresa's list on perfume and scent.

You've probably heard about it, but maybe you never read it. I think you should.

The story plays out in 18th-century France, where an unloved orphan is born with an exceptional sense of smell. He becomes a perfumer constantly searching for scent above all other scents, which he finds in young girls who are still virgins.

But to get the scent out, he needs to kill them. I read it in one sitting, and apart from the character arcs, the well-told story, and the suspense, this novel made me understand that a good idea can be both crazy and unbelievable…

As a fan of historical novels, I love when past worlds open up through colourful and evocative descriptions.

Although a work of fiction, not a historical text, reading Perfume helped me think differently about arguably the most ephemeral and complex sense – smell.

Set in the sensorially rich world of eighteenth-century France, the story follows Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a man born with a sense of smell so extraordinary he can differentiate between a range of odours far greater than anyone else.

Whilst at times a gift, his ability leads him into the realms of obsession and murder in an attempt to…

From Hannah's list on multisensory history.

It comes out of a Germanic tradition, including Hoffmann’s dark, supernatural tales, but Perfume seemed wonderfully original, freshly foul, and captivatingly disgusting. It’s a book that makes its own universe and sets its own rules. It’ll ask you to lend your sympathy to a demented serial killer. And you may well consent.

Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born amongst the discarded fish guts, in the gutter in an Eighteenth century, Parisian market. In a world that stinks, he lacks a body odour himself, but grows up obsessed with the aroma of things becoming a genius perfumier. But his obsession carries terrible costs…

From Christopher's list on mavericks and oddballs.

I must admit that I, and probably many other Nirvana fans, only read this book initially because Kurt Cobain supposedly cited it as his favorite book and the Nirvana song “Scentless Apprentice” was inspired by it. The main draw of the book is in the title; this is the story of a murderer, one who was born without a scent but possesses a strong sense of smell. It is this strong sensitivity to smell and an obsession with scent that drive the main character, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, to commit murders. I think most readers will sympathize and possibly cheer for the…

This novel opened my eyes to the potential scope of historical fiction. The story of an orphan with an extraordinary sense of smell who becomes a perfumer, and then a murderer, could only have been set in the past, where the smell of everything was all-pervading, especially in the bustling centre of Paris. An utterly seductive and unique page-turner.

From Damian's list on that bring history to life.

I think that reading this book is, in itself, a deal with a devil. In this case, a particular devil: Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a man obsessed with capturing the perfect scent. I read this in the midst of my research for The Blood Confession, and reading the cold calculation of a man murdering virgin girls in order to sap the scent from their bodies certainly informed the thoughts of my own murderer. The affection he has for his work, juxtaposed with his callous disregard for human life, is deeply chilling.

From Alisa's list on deals with devils.

Perfume is a story of bloodlust for scent. It is written with phenomenal pacing, shocking twists, and precise yet intense language that clutches you from the start. I am a murder mystery super fan and what could be better than a book about murder and smell! What is further amazing is the research that Patrick Suskind clearly did for this book. Indeed, I wrote to Suskind asking how he learned what he did about scent, but he did not respond-- I’ve since heard that he is a recluse. No matter-- Suskind has an uncanny intuition for the secrets and powers…

From Rachel's list on intellectual and creative inspiration.

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