First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
“An acclaimed bestseller and international sensation, Patrick Suskind’s classic novel provokes a terrifying examination of what happens when one man’s indulgence in his greatest passion—his sense of smell—leads to murder.
In the slums of eighteenth-century France, the infant Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with one sublime gift—an absolute sense of smell. As a boy, he lives to decipher the odors of Paris, and apprentices himself to a prominent perfumer who teaches him the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs. But Grenouille’s genius is such that he is not satisfied to stop there, and he becomes obsessed with capturing the smells of objects such as brass doorknobs and fresh-cut wood. Then one day he catches a hint of a scent that will drive him on an ever-more-terrifying quest to create the “ultimate perfume”—the scent of a beautiful young virgin. Told with dazzling narrative brilliance, Perfume is a hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity.” (Source: Goodreads)
It was over four years ago when I first encountered Patrick Suskind’s Perfume, the Story of a Murderer. My initial impression of the book is that it was a biographical or nonfiction work. The secondary title, The Story of a Murderer, also seem to point to a documentary type of work. This was the primary reason why I avoided the book. After encountering the book in several must-read lists, my initial impression of the book started to change.
After learning that the book was adapted into a film that interested some of my colleagues, my interest in the book skyrocketed. What little I heard of the story’s premise was enough to pique my curiosity. For years, I built my anticipation for the book but, ironically, it was only late last year that I bought a copy of the book. I originally wanted to have a hardbound copy of the book but it was challenging so I settled with what is available in the local bookstore. Since I can no longer contain my anticipation, I included the book as part of my 2020 Top 20 Reading List ahead of other books I have purchased earlier than this book.
And just today, I started that long-anticipated literary journey. I am really giddy in excitement, looking forward to what the story has in store. The story is set in 18th century France where we meet our protagonist, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. Back when I first encountered the book, I thought that it was set in the contemporary. Then I heard it was set in 18th century so I assumed that it was written probably around 18th or 19th century. Well, wrong again! Foolish me jumping into conclusions. Apparently, Das Parfüm was first published in 1985. I was off again, by at least a century! To be honest, I had the same impression of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose! It’s the ignorance I have to pay for adamantly refusing to research more on books I encounter.
Enough with my banter. Back to the story. I just started reading the book. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille was the fifth child of a brazen woman who killed her first four children before birth and immediately after birth but nobody knew of it until she was caught red handed with her fifth child. Since his mother was executed for infanticide, Jean-Baptiste became an orphan, left to the care of random wet nurses that Father Terrier hires. That is as far as I’ve read.
The first thing that made an impression on me is the tone of the writing. It reminds of me a grandmother telling her grandchildren a fairy tale. It has that quality – inviting, riveting even. And then I am reminded that this novel is also parts fantasy. Maybe that is where the feeling comes from. Perfume being the story of a murderer, I kind of expect a Grimm’s fairy tale type of twists and morbidity. I guess the title is a dead give away. What I am curious about is the connection of Perfume to the narrative. It made my mind conjure images of vast lavender fields!
It seems that Perfume is going to be a quick read even though it is nearly 300 pages long. The upbeat tempo and the tenterhook is keeping me at the edge of my seat. I think I’ll be able to finish it tomorrow if all things go well. How about you fellow reader, what book are you going to read this weekend? I hope it is a book that you’ve been looking forward to. I hope you enjoy it. Keep safe, and happy weekend!