Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (French for frog) is born in filthy 18th-century Paris without any personal scent but with a brilliant sense of smell. Lacking a scent, he's considered devilish, but he uses his sense of smell to rise from lowly tanner to famous perfumier by the age of 25. Grenouille spends seven years in a remote cave, such is his hatred for human beings. When he emerges, he has developed the idea of capturing the intoxicating scents of young virgins, an idea he pursues through the most horrendous of methods.
The character of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is complex, and Süskind takes the reader on a voyage of discovery to uncover his many facets. What starts out as sympathy for his plight as a misunderstood child turns to horror and disgust when he becomes psychotic and mentally unstable. What frightened me the most was his absolute lack of a conscience. His upbringing played a part, but it is unclear whether it was nature or nurture that made him the way he was. A powerful, and very disturbing, portrait of an unforgettable man.