I’ve been thinking about this for a few days now and I’m still unsure how I feel about the novel as a whole, so this is going to be a short one.
If the story line is about a man, born with a fantastic sense of smell, who is trying to make the greatest perfume by capturing the scent of virgins, then it’s clear that this novel’s going to involve a lot of analogies and metaphors about sexuality and what it is to be human. And that’s pretty much the whole storyline, which I quite liked.
I also enjoyed reading about the analysis of smell being linked to a person’s identity and mental stability, for example, Grenouille who has no smell, is completely amoral and all his virginal victims have an irresistible smell. It’s very erotic and religious, there’s plenty of discussion about God and love and sex and identity that I didn’t quite understand as well as I would like though which is what’s making it so difficult to write.
However, the pacing took a while. It goes into Grenouille’s whole history and anyone who’s ever associated with him, who all suffer terrible deaths. I also thought we’d get a lot of details about his murders to showcase his evil, like Thomas Harris or even James Patterson but that didn’t happen, leading to the second problem.
Grenouille didn’t have much of an impact as a villain and it probably didn’t help matters that we are first introduced to him as an abomination like de Sade’s or Bonaparte because it really built him up. His motive for all his actions seem to be driven purely by the fact that he’s evil so he feels more like a blunt instrument used to carry the themes of the novel rather than the plot.
I don’t know if I struggled to understand the themes because it wasn’t expanded into enough detail or because it’s out of my reach, which is what’s giving me mixed feelings about ‘Perfume’. I’d still recommend it though.