I just started this novel yesterday so I'm not very far into it but it's already quite clear that it's ridiculously over the top.
Perfume tells the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, born literally in the scrap heap underneath his mother's fish stall in 18th-century Paris. His mother plans to let him die, as she has her previous 4 children, but is exposed and beheaded for it.
He's sent to various wet nurses who keep sending him back to the monastery that's taken him in because he's greedy and has no smell - his lack of smell makes him frightening to both grown-ups and other children. Indeed, many of the children he encounters in foster try repeatedly but unsuccessfully to kill him because there's something so inherently unnatural about him, even as an infant...
As he grows he becomes obsessed with scents and has olfactory powers well beyond those of normal human beings. He's also without a conscience or morals and so when he smells the most perfect of smells and discovers, having followed it across the river and through many a meandering narrow back alley, that it belongs to a 14-year old girl he doesn't hesitate to strangle her so that he can truly absorb her scent and fix it in his memory.
Her smell, what Jean-Baptiste considers the "principle of scent" inspires him to become the world's most famous perfumer, and that's where I left off reading last night.
I'm not sure where I first heard of this novel, but it may have been Brook warning me never to read it several years ago.
(I FINALLY finished Rez Dogs Eat Beans - and I immediately put it up for grabs at www.bookmooch.com. I also finished Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio and Leave it to Psmith and I was very sorry to see the ends of those two.)