About twenty years ago my sister told me about a book she said she couldn't forget. I looked for it in book shops and libraries on and off for years but never found it. Eventually I forgot about it. Then two weeks ago I went to dinner at a friend's home and she told me to read this book she had just finished. It was the same book - Perfume by Patrick Suskind. I took it, grateful that I had eventually found it.
Well, I've finished it and I'm confused. This book breaks so many of the rules that we are constantly told to follow and yet it is a big enough hit to be made into a film.
First of all, the hero is despicable, odious, completely unsympathetic. Aren't we told to make sure that our characters are likeable, that they invoke sympathy, that even if they are off the tracks, that they have redeemable features that make us want to follow their character growth until they reach a point where we can like them. This chap has no redeeming features and certainly, if his character develops at all - and that is debatable - it's only to become even more horrendous. So why do we follow his story? I suppose because he has this incredible gift and it is the development of that gift that we are fascinated by and which makes us turn each page.
Secondly, we are continually told to 'show, don't tell'. This book 'tells' us the story virtually from the beginning to the end. There is one short section of dialogue and this is written up as in a play with the character's name written, followed by a colon and then his words. The rest is all hearsay - he did this and then said that and then he did this. If we do that in our stories, we are instantly rejected just as we would be for the first point. So why does he get away with it? Certainly it was first published over 20 years ago when the expectations of storytelling were different but it is still popular today.
The other fact I found strange about this book was that while reading the book, I found it difficult to put down and yet when I did manage to, I had little desire to go back to it. Can you see why this book has confused me so much?