Skip to main content

Perfect by Rachel Joyce

Perfect
I'd like to start by saying how much I loved Rachel Joyce's first novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. It had such charm, and the characters were lovingly written, even the minor ones. I'd come to it without expectations, it just swept me up and carried me along with Harold on his odd journey. I say all this because I think Rachel Joyce is a wonderful writer who can create magic out of the everyday lives of unexceptional people. My expectations for Perfect were high - possibly too high.

Two stories are told in Perfect. I think the main narrative is the one set in 1972, the year in which two seconds were added to time to align the clocks with the earth's rotation. These two seconds preoccupy young Byron Hemming, as he puzzles over how time can be changed and when exactly the change will take place. His best friend James is very clever, but even he doesn't seem to have all the information Byron needs. His obsession contributes to a very bad thing happening. The rest of this thread of the novel is about Byron's attempts to repair the damage done and deal with the ongoing repercussions.

The second strand of the story is set in the present day as Jim tries to adjust to life in the outside world. He has spent much of his life in an institution as he battles with depression and compulsive behaviour. He needs to complete evermore elaborate rituals to ensure no one else around him gets hurt. It's a lonely existence, apart from his colleagues at the local shopping centre cafe he has no friends or family to support him. Jim's story moves backwards and forwards, as he reflects on his old life and tries to get on with his new one.

Although the two strands are clearly linked, they are kept quite separate for most of the novel. It is only at the end that the two stories become one whole. Jim's story is quite moving at times, and there is a quiet redemptive aspect to it that I found very appealing. The hope that he can find a better way to live is still in him, despite the struggle of daily life he never completely abandons that hope. I did wonder why he'd lived so long in care; the place seems to have only recently closed down at the beginning of Jim's story. In his recollections of the place I got a kind of slippage of time myself as it all felt very old-fashioned and I wasn't sure when he was remembering. I can understand him being stuck in the 1970s, but I got a bit confused because it didn't seem as if mental healthcare had changed for him much in over thirty years. I did enjoy his story though, and it had me near to tears on more than one occasion.

The story radiating from the two seconds is a bit problematic for me, mainly because I'm not great with drippy female characters who continually let life happen to them. Byron's mother Diana is so passive so much of the time, which is doubly frustrating because actually she is interesting and individual. When she occasionally comes to life she is wonderful and spirited. But most of the time she limply does what's expected of her, obedient to the men in her life to the point of allowing herself to be guided by her son into dealing with the accident that occurs. She takes abuse from her husband, is patronised by the other school mums, and is taken advantage of over and over by her new friend. None of what happens is inevitable, but misery truly does love company in the Hemming household.

I don't know whether my expectations were too high, or whether the story just didn't quite work for me, but I didn't love Perfect as much as I thought I would. I write that with a heavy heart and a sneaking suspicion that I missed something that other people have found in the book.

Thank you very much to the publisher for sending me a proof copy of the book. Perfect is available now in Hardback.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Interview With The Vampire: Claudia's Story by Anne Rice and Ashley Marie Witter

How to Stuff Up Christmas by Rosie Blake

'Tis the season to be jolly. Unless you've found an intimate picture of another woman on your fiance's phone... Eve is heartbroken after discovering her fiance is cheating on her. Being surrounded by the joys of Christmas is more than Eve can bear, so she chooses to avoid the festivities by spending Christmas alone on a houseboat in Pangbourne. Eve gets gets an unexpected seasonal surprise when handsome local vet Greg comes to her rescue one day, and continues to visit Eve's boat on a mission to transform her from Kitchen Disaster Zone to Culinary Queen.But where does Greg keep disappearing to? What does Eve's best friend Daisy know that she isn't telling? And why is there an angry goose stalking Eve's boat?
This book illustrates how special a thing it is to have people send you books out of the blue; it's a privilege and a pleasure. I wouldn't have known about this book, let alone read and loved it, if it hadn't landed in my letterbox. I'm …

Reading Resolutions

Happy New Year!
That's 2015 done and dusted, here's to 2016 and let's hope it's filled with love and laughter, friends and fun, books and cake. And really, that's about as far as my resolutions go but I do have a few projects in mind for the coming year and beyond.

This year there are two anniversaries I want to celebrate. The first is the two hundredth anniversary of Charlotte Bronte's birth on 21st April.
Jane Eyre is one of my most favourite stories of all and I've lost count of the number of times I've read it over the years. I'll be re-reading it yet again come April, but before then I plan to read the other three novels Charlotte wrote starting with Shirley this month. I'm quite keen to read the new Claire Harman biography of Charlotte Bronte too at some point.

The other anniversary is that of Shakespeare's death 400 years ago on 23rd April. I've finally admitted to myself that reading the same half dozen plays over and over isn'…