addressalign-toparrow-leftarrow-rightbackbellblockcalendarcameraccwchatcheckchevron-downchevron-leftchevron-rightchevron-small-downchevron-small-leftchevron-small-rightchevron-small-upchevron-upcircle-with-checkcircle-with-crosscircle-with-pluscrosseditemptyheartfacebookfolderfullheartglobegmailgoogleimagesinstagramlinklocation-pinmagnifying-glassmailminusmoremuplabelShape 3 + Rectangle 1outlookpersonplusprice-ribbonImported LayersImported LayersImported Layersshieldstartickettrashtriangle-downtriangle-uptwitteruseryahoo

"Perfume" by Patrick Suskind

So it's not on one of the acclaimed "100 Best Books of All Time" lists, but Perfume is on some lesser known lists, like the BBC's The Big Read (http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/bigread/top100_2.shtml), The 50 Coolest Books Ever (along with a handful of others we've read in this book club… https://www.shortlist.com/entertainment/the-50-coolest-books-ever), and even the Top 10 Most Disturbing Novels (http://listverse.com/2008/09/29/top-10-most-disturbing-novels/). But one of the main reasons I've chosen this is because of how many times I've asked people what their favourite books are and this has been mentioned. So we'll take another break from the old school heavy hitters, and sniff out this dark novel.

Here's a review from http://www.sfsite.com/~silverag/perfume.html

 Patrick Süskind's first novel, Perfume (Das Parfum) tells the horrific story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, an orphan born in Paris in 1738. When Grenouille's abandoned body is found in the garbage, he is taken to an orphanage, where everyone who comes into contact with him finds something about him to be revulsive. What they are unaware of is that Grenouille's body does not have any aroma, a distinction which is so subtle that nobody can place their finger on it, but which colors Grenouille's entire life. Grenouille's strange relationship to odors is further highlighted by his own extremely sharp sense of smell, caused, perhaps, by the lack of necessity to sense past his own smell.

When he comes of age, Grenouille manages to apprentice himself to a perfumer and shows a strong aptitude for mixing strange and exotic perfumes. This skill leads him to his desire to cover his own lack of smell and a quest to create the most unique perfume the world has ever known.

By following Grenouille from his birth, when his mother abandoned him to death among the discarded fish guts through his childhood when he discovered how different he was to his apprenticeship, Süskind is able to evoke several different emotions from the reader, ranging from sympathy for the young orphan to curiosity to disgust and hatred. Grenouille's lack of aroma can be seen as representative of his lack of morals in a world in which the amoral and the ethical were struggling to find a new common ground.

Süskind does a remarkable job in portraying Paris of the eighteenth century, relying more on olfactory descriptions than is common in novels, which supports the rather odd conceit behind the narrative. He describes Grenouille and his actions with a detached demeanor, thereby heightening the horrific nature of Grenouille's actions by not commenting on that nature.

Perfume is a suspense novel. Although the reader knows that Grenouille is guilty, throughout the book the reader wonders whether and how Grenouille will be brought to justice. The novel is also an horror novel, although not of the slasher variety, nor of the Lovecraftian style. Instead, Perfume is a disturbing novel for the matter of fact way Süskind describes Grenouille's actions and motivations. While it is clear that Grenouille is obsessed and insane, he performs within the confines of eighteenth century French society in a perfectly lucid manner.

Süskind's book is sui generis. Part horror, part mystery, part historical fiction, it offers insight into the mind of the criminally insane while speculating on the role the sense of smell plays in our lives. Perfume can't be compared to anything written before it because its premise is so different in many ways than what has come before. While Süskind's later books are relatively common (The Pigeon and Mister Summer's Story), Perfume quite definitely remains his fictional masterpiece.


New to the Hungry Hundred Book Club?  Here's what you need to know:

1. Read the book (If you don't manage to finish it by the meetup date, don't worry.  As long as you're not going to be too disappointed by spoilers, you're still welcome to join.)

2. Come to the meeting, always on the last Sunday of every month

3. Be prepared to order food/drink at the venue (where ever that may be) to show our appreciation for letting us use their space

4. Discuss!  It's a casual conversation, so don't be afraid to ask questions and let us know what you think.


Join or login to comment.

  • Valentina M.

    thank you for organizing Rachel!

    for those who are interested, this is the book I mentioned yesterday: The Leopard, by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. In 2012, The Observer named it as one of "The 10 best historical novels".

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Leopard

    1 · May 26, 2014

  • Rachel

    Very lively discussion, thoroughly enjoyable. Thanks everyone for coming out!

    5 · May 26, 2014

    • Sophia K.

      Thanks for organising Rachel. Thoroughly enjoyable and stimulating as usual.

      May 26, 2014

    • Andrew

      Thanks for organising Rachel. I'm looking forward to next month's meet up.

      May 26, 2014

  • Andrew

    It was very enjoyable.

    May 26, 2014

  • Rama K.

    Great job Rachel ! Even though I haven't read the book, it was a very interesting discussion and I had a great time.

    May 25, 2014

  • Jochy

    Not sure if I can make it. I was really hoping to come but I'm held up by a family engagement. Will try my best to follow if ever.

    May 25, 2014

  • Andrew

    Hi! This is my first time joining. Feeling excited about it.

    May 25, 2014

  • Pamela

    Am already at Boat Quay what time does the venue open Claire?

    May 25, 2014

    • Pamela

      Super will go find it

      May 25, 2014

  • Tania M.

    I apologise for not being able to make it as well :(

    May 25, 2014

  • Mukul

    Apologies... My daughter is unwell so bailing out... :(

    May 25, 2014

  • Jow L.

    Hi Rachel, I was really looking forward to tonight's meet. Unfortunately, caught some bugs without knowing it. Wouldn't want to share those bugs with anyone else, so will have stay home tonight. See you next time. Jow

    May 25, 2014

  • Rachel

    Hey everyone, Claire, the owner of Claire Loves and a member of the HHBC, is really excited to be hosting this discussion at her wonderful establishment. This is her favourite book, and when you see the scents and fragrant candles she stocks her shop with, you'll see why. She's opening the upstairs room on a Sunday when it's normally closed just for us, and will have some bites and drinks available for purchase. So please remember to be respectful and update your rsvp if you can't make it.
    See you there!

    4 · May 24, 2014

    • Pamela

      Great so it is at Boat Quay guys!! See you soon :)

      May 25, 2014

  • pgmuthukumar

    :-)

    May 24, 2014

  • Andrew

    I read it last year. I got kinda bored when I was reading the middle chapters of the book. I even stopped for a while. But I managed to finish it, and I enjoyed the last few chapters of the book. It's really well written.

    May 20, 2014

  • Liza

    Please post the venue if it's been decided. Thank you!!

    May 16, 2014

    • Rachel

      Hi Liza, the venue will be posted at the beginning of next week, once I have a better idea of the number of people attending. It will be somewhere central.

      May 16, 2014

    • Yeo

      Ya its Sunday May 25. Funny how time passes so fast. CD.

      May 16, 2014

  • Joyce C

    Hi everyone, can someone tell me where I can get 'Das Parfum'? I will be going to Kinokunia later today and will also check out the libraries, hope to find the book there. If anyone has any suggestions, please kindly advice.... =) Have a lovely day! Kind Regards, Joyce

    May 12, 2014

    • Valentina M.

      I could not download on kindle and ended up buying a copy in Hong Kong!

      May 12, 2014

    • Joyce C

      Thanks for all the suggestions. I really appreciate it. I was fortunate enough to reserve a copy from the National Library last night! Thanks heaps!

      May 13, 2014

  • Mukul

    I have an ebook... Happy to lend it if anyone wants.. :)

    May 12, 2014

    • Sihem

      Hi mukul ! Yes i would like to borrow it ! Thanks

      May 12, 2014

    • Mukul

      Please email me... [masked]

      May 12, 2014

  • Paul T.

    Enjoyed the book! Such an intriguing character and a wonderful insight to the early days of perfumery..

    1 · May 11, 2014

  • Yeo

    Sounds good to know about the arts of Paris.

    May 8, 2014

  • Erin

    I've been meaning to read this one for a while, but unfortunately I won't be in town to join in!

    May 5, 2014

  • Yessy Tathyanna T.

    i was read this book, and so awesome :)

    April 21, 2014

  • Sanaya

    Hi! I can't find this book in my library...does someone have a copy to lend me?

    March 6, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      i have.

      March 6, 2014

  • Jes

    I haven't read this book but was this made into a movie?I rremember watching a movie ages ago with a similar storyline.

    February 5, 2014

    • Sarah B.

      Yes it is a movie. I've not seen it so not sure how close it is to the book...

      February 6, 2014

  • Sarah B.

    Love this book!

    February 5, 2014

Our Sponsors

  • Books Actually

    20% discount on our upcoming discussion books, 10% off store wide.

People in this
Meetup are also in:

Sign up

Meetup members, Log in

By clicking "Sign up" or "Sign up using Facebook", you confirm that you accept our Terms of Service & Privacy Policy