Book Review of "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer"

German author Patrick Suskind

German author Patrick Suskind published his book, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, in 1985. Thriller and fantasy are the book's genres. The protagonist of the tale is a boy named Jean Baptize Grenouille. Deep exploration of human feelings like love, hate, and death is done in this book. By doing so, the book raises a general issue that underpins several of its topics. They consist of rejection, human character, and perfume. Readers are transported to a fantasy setting by the tale. It focuses on perfumes, which have a pleasant and alluring smell, and murder, which causes dread. The contradicting meaning of the title explains the highest level of conflict in the story. The main character Grenouille is the antagonist in the book and the writer concentrates on his journey since birth until his sad death.

Grenouille's Childhood

Grenouille is the favorite character in the novel due to his weird nature. He is raised up with no love. In his early life, Grenouille has to choose between being fed or to being loved, but not both. This is as a result of his lack of scent. His predicaments are exposed from the beginning and developed through to the end. He was a victim of attempted infanticide after his mother succeeded in her first four births. He has no body odor yet he has a talent of a sharp sense of smell from far. He can mix more than one perfumes in his mind and come up with one fragrance (Mitarani, 1995). The wet nurse Jeanne Bussie, who tried to take care of him, first rejected him because he did not smell like a child.

Grenouille's Foster Families

Grenouille is fostered by Madame Gaillard who apparently lost her sense of smell after a blow from her father destroyed her nose. This is a coincidence and natural survival display, since others never liked him or played with him because they found him weird for lacking odor. Madame Gaillard raises him with no affection; he also has an unattractive face that adds to his rejection in childhood. He is uninteresting and feels okay with being lonely.

Grenouille's Work Ethic

Grenouille is a hard worker. The tanner Grimal treated him like an animal and with harsh conditions; however, he worked for him industriously and submitted to his orders. He also worked for Baldini diligently (Mitarani, 1995). Grenouille is also an ambitious character. His main ambition was to know how to extract and physically preserve an odor from a human being. This is aroused after he met an adolescent who smelled so good to him that he mistakenly killed her while trying to kiss her. He fulfilled his ambitions after killing 25 adolescent girls. To him, talent alone could not fulfill his dreams, but working hard to get experience meant everything to him.

Grenouille's Hatred for Humanity

The most captivating part of the novel is Grenouille's hate for humanity. He hid in a cave for a period of seven years. This is because he felt unwanted and unworthy due to his lack of odor (Suskind, 1988). He hated that humans could be fooled after he made his own scent. The hate occurred in the sense that the moment of the disgust he felt for the humankind rose up again from within himself, completely ruining his achievement; he felt not only no joy, but also not even the least bit of satisfaction. He had always had the longing of being loved. However, the people whom he expected to love him were the same persons who ended up being his enemies. As a result, he did not love, and consequently hated them. Suddenly, he knew and was fully convinced that he had never found satisfaction in love, but always only in hatred (Mitarani, 1995).

Grenouille's Obsession with Death

From the story, Grenouille had a deep force of death and ruin. His obsession was to create the best perfumes made him kill 25 virgins to extract and preserve their scent (Suskind, 1988). Every single person who got in touch with him died beginning from his mother who was hanged to death. The nurses who breast fed him died too, because he was suckling life out of them. Madame Gaillard who took care of him died of lung cancer; Giram the Tanner, whom he served, died after taking too much of alcohol immediately. Baldini bought Grenouille from him; later, he died when his house fell in a river. Chenier who took Grenouille after his hide out from the cave died upon the fall of the bridge he was in. Grenouille finally is a victim of death too at the end of the novel (Mitarani, 1995).

The Power of Perfume

Anyone who knows little about fragrance can learn a lot about perfumes in the story, it shows how perfumes are extracted and processed. The chemistry of perfumes is clearly illustrated as several people do not have information on what perfumes are made of. Additionally, it shows that perfumes can depict different emotions (Mitarani, 1995). Odors have persuasion power stronger than appearances, words, will, or emotions. It is impossible to fend off an odor's persuasive power, since it makes an entry inside, such as breathe does into the lungs, fills up and instills totally.

The Power of Scent in Society

Perfume also brings the feeling of acceptance; this is seen when people acknowledged Grenouille when he wore an odor he made by himself. Laure's father also offered for the adoption of Grenouille, when he was released from custody, even after his own daughter was among those killed by Grenouille (Suskind, 1988). The story talks a lot about the power of scent. Scent controls a large portion of human behavior automatically. It is not the abnormal sense of smell that Grenouille had, but the fact that scents are part of human beings. The scent is closely harsh, as it often controls how people treat each other. Suskind writes that "he who ruled scent ruled the hearts of men" (1988). The book also depicts that adolescent girls smell good but the most beautiful ones with red hair smell best (Mitarani, 1995).


In conclusion, the book Perfume: The Story of a Murderer systematically attracts the reader from the beginning to the end. The story is unpredictable, which makes the reader anxious to read more, as it brings together drama, fear, imagination and romance. The story leaves the readers in suspense, as the mob is stuck in guilt and also the satisfaction of killing out of love. It can also inspire someone, who feels rejection, since it is clearly shown how one can rise from poverty to win people's affection just by exploring the talents.


Mitarani, J. L. (1995). "Perfume: The story of a Murderer.'' Contemporary psychoanalysis, 31(1): 81 - 124.

Suskind, P. (1988). Perfume: The story of a murderer. New York, NY: ISIS Audio Books.

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