Perfume: The Story of a Murderer - John E. Woods Perfume really wasn't what I was expecting (a crime mystery drama type deal) - and that's a good thing. What I got instead was a very personal and extremely sensuous portrait and biography of a bastard named Jean-Baptiste Grenouille who was more of a tick than a man. He's left for dead in a pile of fish guts immediately after his birth, leading to the decapitation of his neglectful mother. He has no scent of his own but he possesses a phenomenal sense of smell which he uses to collect all the individual scents that he possibly can (from brass doorknobs to the smell of the sea) in a mental storehouse which he cherishes and revisits throughout his miserable life in Paris. He's handed off from nurse maid to orphanage to tanner, where he learns a trade and eventually a gateway to a perfumer's store. The perfuming business seems to be what he was born for - he comes alive and stretches out from his usual tucked-in, unassuming state and relishes composing new complicated scents too delicate and sophisticated for anyone's enjoyment but his own. He flourishes as a perfumer's assistant but is always on the lookout for a new odor or stench or fragrance - whatever he can get his nose on. One day he catches a whiff of a beautiful virgin and is intoxicated by her aura and the power of her scent; he becomes consumed by his determination to capture and bottle the scent and will stop at nothing to get it.

I was absolutely amazed and impressed by Patrick Süskind's ability to describe so perfectly (sometimes beautifully, sometimes disgustingly) all the scents of the world, from the overcrowded and sweaty city of Paris to the crisp, fresh, dampness of a cave untouched by man. The language is just beautiful in this novel. While reading it I noticed I was beginning to pay more attention to how everything around me smelled, trying to notice the subtle nuances and flavors as Grenouille did. The whole perfuming business and the techniques used to strain essences from flowers and things were actually really interesting to read about. You can tell Süskind did some extensive research on the processes and really studied the art of smell. I also thought he did a wonderful job of characterizing Grenouille. He's one of the most unique and unusual characters I've come across in a while and I'm sure I won't forget him soon. I thought the portrayal of Grenouille as a tick, dropping from solitary branches only periodically to feed on a host and then withdraw back into himself, was perfect. Yet somehow, even after all the atrocious murders and his inability to really be human and love or be loved, I could still pity him. He was never taught what love was and therefore couldn't know it, and no one was ever able to fight their repulsion of him to show him the difference between right and wrong. It's not surprising that he was more animal than man - he was left to his own defenses and became the roughest semblance of a human being that he could through the use of his extraordinary talent. A very interesting novel.