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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost Perfect
This is a story about time. How a few seconds can alter lives forever.

Byron Hemming is concerned after his friend James tells him that two seconds are going to be added to time. He becomes convinced that this is unnatural and is sure to result in some disastrous consequences. He is not wrong. After he inadvertently causes an accident, his life begins to...
Published 14 months ago by Tash Last

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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little disappointing
I loved Rachel Joyce’s first novel, ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’, but found her second one harder to get through.

On the one hand, we follow the lives of Byron, his family and his friend James over the course of a summer in the 1970’s. An accident, two additional seconds and a childish need to right a wrong will have...
Published 11 months ago by Macey89


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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost Perfect, 22 Dec. 2013
This review is from: Perfect (Hardcover)
This is a story about time. How a few seconds can alter lives forever.

Byron Hemming is concerned after his friend James tells him that two seconds are going to be added to time. He becomes convinced that this is unnatural and is sure to result in some disastrous consequences. He is not wrong. After he inadvertently causes an accident, his life begins to unravel.

This accident will forever alter the lives of an array of characters; Byron and James, Diana and Seymour (Byron's mother and father), and a little girl and her mother (Jeanie and Beverley) from the wrong side of the tracks.

In alternating chapters we are introduced to a middle-aged man named Jim who is battling both severe mental illness and the demons from his past. You sense that somehow these two stories are connected, and I was so sure I had it figured out until Part 3 when I realised all my expectations and assumptions were incorrect (in a good way).

This was a very good story, and yet I found it so uncomfortable to read. It was like waiting for a horrific accident you know is going to happen, but you don't know when or how. And there is nothing anyone can do to change it. Beverley was so manipulative and the most unsympathetic character I have met in a long time, despite her unfortunate social situation. I was really hoping her scheming would lead to her own undoing.

And poor James and Byron, despite their good intentions, their interference just made matters worse for everyone.

The looming catastrophe was shocking, but not in the way I expected, almost as if the entire story was a red herring. Part three felt a bit anti-climatic, but I liked the way it slowed down towards the end.

SPOILER: I really liked the way the alternating chapters stopped once Byron felt whole again. It was a clever and subtle literary device.

Rachel Joyce is clearly a gifted writer. As the novel progresses you can see Diana and Byron slowly unravelling and looking back I had to ask: could Diana's inaction and fear regarding Beverley and her manipulation have lead to her undoing?

Perfect poses some very interesting social questions regarding gender roles, class and ultimately mental health.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yet another gem from Rachel Joyce., 2 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: Perfect (Kindle Edition)
The more I read of Rachel Joyce the more I think that her long involvement with theatre has been behind her ability to create such credible characters. I was irritated by Beverley, frustrated by Diana and wanted to give 'Jim' a big hug and tell him it would all be alright in the end. Then along came Eileen.

Wonderful, wonderful stuff with a clever denouement. Joyce's powers of description are like nothing else that I have read. Quite how she manages to come up with so many creative images that totally avoid what could very easily be cliche I don't know.

Can't wait for next month and her new novel.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little disappointing, 26 Mar. 2014
By 
Macey89 - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Perfect (Kindle Edition)
I loved Rachel Joyce’s first novel, ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’, but found her second one harder to get through.

On the one hand, we follow the lives of Byron, his family and his friend James over the course of a summer in the 1970’s. An accident, two additional seconds and a childish need to right a wrong will have devastating effects on the lives of everyone involved.

In the other, Jim cleans tables at a café. Having been in and out of psychiatric care all his life, he keeps his head down and avoids contact with others as much as possible. He lives alone, and only by following a strict regime of rituals and routine does he feel safe.

These two threads weave together, until the truth behind what happened in 1972 is finally revealed.

For me, ‘Perfect’ lacked pace and was a bit slow moving. I also didn’t feel the same levels of connection to the characters as in Rachel Joyce’s last novel, and I found Byron and James especially hard to relate to. Maybe if I hadn’t read ‘Harold Fry’ and had such high expectations I would have enjoyed it more. But that doesn’t change the fact that I actually found some parts of this novel a little dull. A large part of the book is set in the 70’s, and something about the language, the setting and the way it was written just didn’t capture my imagination. I enjoyed the alternate storyline with Jim a lot more.

When it got to the closing chapters, and the storylines started to come together, it finally turned into the kind of book I wish I’d been reading all along. I didn’t see the twist coming, and when it did, it was fantastic. It was hard-hitting and emotional – and really highlighted the fact that the ripple effects of just one moment can completely change the course of someone’s life.

Although I really enjoyed the ending, it definitely wasn’t a happy book, and I turned the last page feeling more than a little disheartened. It really brought home the effects that depression and mental illness can have if they’re ignored and not addressed – not just on the person themselves but also on the people around them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Does not come close to Harald Fry, 3 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: Perfect (Kindle Edition)
I was very much looking forward to the publication of Joyce's second novel after thoroughly enjoying 'The unlikely pilgrimage of Harald Fry' which was my favourite book of 2012. I had high expectations for her second novel believing that Joyce would once again contact with me at an emotional level. Unfortunately, this connection happens at far too late a point in the novel. I spent a considerable part of this book wondering what the story was really about and was I finding it really entertaining as a novel should do. It's only the last few chapters the message becomes clear. By this stage I was more than ready to exit stage left.
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35 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Heart-Warming and Bittersweet Tale, 4 July 2013
By 
Susie B - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Perfect (Hardcover)
No Spoilers.

Rachel Joyce's eagerly anticipated novel has quite a hard act to follow after the success of the author's debut novel: The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry and I am pleased to say that her second novel does not disappoint.

This new story begins in the summer of 1972 and focuses on eleven-year-old Byron, and his friend, James, who are both day boys at Winston House, a private school, set on the edge of the moors, somewhere in England. In 1972, we are told, two seconds were to be added to time in order to bring the clocks in line with the movement of the Earth, and these two extra seconds absolutely terrify Byron, a sensitive and imaginative boy, who worries that something immense will happen in those two seconds. He shares his worries with his mother Diana, who is a lovely, but rather distracted woman, who tells Byron that two seconds are nothing. "That's what nobody realises" answers Byron "Two seconds are huge. It's the difference between something happening and not happening...It's very dangerous." And Byron tells himself he was right to be worried, because shortly afterwards, when Diana is driving him and his sister to school one morning in her smart new Jaguar (bought for her by her rather pompous and mostly absent husband) an accident occurs and Diana drives off without noticing what she has done. Byron is distraught; he thinks the incident occurred at exactly the moment that the two seconds were added to time and, after discussing the incident at length with his friend James, upon whose intelligence Byron relies, the two boys concoct 'Operation Perfect' in order to investigate the accident and to protect Diana from any possible repercussions. But somehow the plan does not go quite the way the two boys envisaged, resulting in surprising and far-reaching consequences which have a marked effect on both boys' futures. (No spoilers).

In the present day and running alongside the story set in 1972, we read about Jim, a middle-aged man who, having spent years in Besley Hill, a psychiatric hospital, is now living in a camper van and working in a supermarket cafe. Jim has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and when he is not working, he spends most of his time going through his rituals, tapping and greeting each of his possessions, locking and unlocking his door, and sealing every aperture inside his van. Most nights, by the time he has finished his rituals, poor Jim has only four hours left to sleep - but he absolutely must do this in order to feel safe. Resigned to living his life on his own, Jim is, therefore, surprised when he meets Eileen, a tall, big-boned, titian-haired woman, with a raucous laugh and very ripe language, who seems to be interested in starting a friendship with him. Jim begins to feel there may be a future for him after all. But who exactly is Jim? And what does his predicament have to do with the unusual events of 1972? Obviously I shall leave that for prospective readers to discover.

I very much enjoyed 'Perfect' and read it practically in one siting immersed in the story of Jim, Diana, Byron and James. The author's characters are well-drawn and I found it easy to feel a real sympathy for Diana, who is out of her depth with the snobbish mothers at Byron's private school, and trying too hard to fit into the mould that Byron's socially aspirant father insists upon. The relationship between Byron and James was beautifully depicted and I was amused by their conversations, mostly carried out in a mixture of French and English, and touched by their evident affection for each other; I also felt that Rachel Joyce handled Jim's mental health issues with warmth and empathy. It must be said, that with some of the areas covered in this novel, this could not be described as a light, happy read - but although very sad in places, in no way did I find it depressing - it's a heart-warming, emotive and bittersweet tale about those who may not entirely fit in with others around them; it's about the mistakes people make; and it's about people who have been damaged by the past. With a rather neat little twist right at the end of the story, this novel is also, importantly, about hope and about the healing power of friendship. Recommended

4 Stars.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A beguiling read., 31 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Perfect (Paperback)
Whilst researching for an author profile of Rachel Joyce recently I discovered that the character of Byron, the protagonist of 'Perfect' has been in her thoughts for much longer than her previous novel 'The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry' With this information in mind I decided that despite not having read the earlier novel, I know how did I miss out on it, I would go ahead and read 'Perfect' first. Rachel Joyce tells us in a letter on her website that ' The idea about the cost of perfection and an idea that changes everything, as well as the central characters, has been loitering in my head for many years.'

Perfect scene setting draws one in immediately, a hot English July day in a country garden where the air is heavy with the scent of flowers. The story revolves around the female protagonist Diana, the fragile middle class wife that is in an unhappy marriage. Her husband is a control freak, even managing to rule her life when he is away in the city working all week. One summer day in 1972 two seconds are added to time and it is this that causes, dramatic life changes for the family
with poignant consequences. Her son Byron was terrified by the addition of those seconds, thanks to a vivid imagination and what happened that day. With a friend he seeks to try and find out what really happened, but is he successful.
Jump on forty years to the present day and we meet Jim, a discharged psychiatric patient who finds life out side an institutional setting over whelming. Just how these two stories link up and provide the reader with a beguiling read I leave you to discover for yourself.

Having enjoyed the writing style of this author I will look out for any future novels she writes and have of course added 'The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry to my wishlist. Do not be misled by the title 'Perfect' which does create in one's mind something completely different to the tragic story that unfolds in this novel which I highly recommend to all lovers of literary fiction.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A moving and uplifting read, 16 Nov. 2014
By 
Cloggie Downunder (Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Perfect (Paperback)
“Sometimes it is easier, he thinks, to live out the mistakes we have made than to summon the energy and imagination to repair them”

Perfect is the second novel by bestselling British author, Rachel Joyce. In the heat of the 1972 English summer, Byron Hemmings, an intense and thoughtful eleven-year-old boy, is worried. His best friend (and the smartest boy in school), James Lowe has told him two seconds are to be added to time. He understands it is necessary, but can’t shake a feeling of terror. When those two seconds appear to result in a car accident involving Diana Hemmings’ perfect Jaguar, Byron worries incessantly about the consequences and, despite his best efforts to follow the meticulous plans James makes, his known universe begins to unravel.

Joyce uses two narrators to tell her story: young Byron relates the events of that 1972 summer; Jim, a man in his fifties whose life is governed by rituals, intersperses his narration of his present day life (currently being disrupted by a red-headed cook uttering profanities) with memories of earlier times and how he came to live most of his life in a mental institution. These narratives approach a common point, gradually revealing the summer’s tragic conclusion.

Joyce renders the feel of the seventies summer and the present day winter with great skill. Her descriptive prose is often breathtaking: “The sun was not yet fully risen and, caught in the low weak shaft of light, the dew shone silver over the meadow although the crust of earth beneath was hard and cracked. The ox-eye daisies made white pools on the lower hills while every tree sprang a black leak away from the sun’s light. The air smelt new and green like mint” and “A flock of gulls flew east, rising and falling, as if they might clean the sky with their wings” and “With a clutter of wings a flock of starlings lifts into the air, unravelling and lengthening like black ribbon” are just a few samples.

Her characters are appealing and the reader cannot help having sympathy for their situation: Diana’s feelings of inadequacy, Byron’s need to protect his beloved mother (“Like a splinter in his head, the truth was always there, and even though he tried to avoid it by being careful, sometimes he forgot to be careful and there it was”), Jim’s attempts to be normal (“No one knows how to be normal, Jim. We’re all just trying our best. Sometimes we don’t have to think about it and other times it’s like running after a bus that’s already halfway down the street.”) Byron’s anxiety is palpable and Joyce portrays mental conditions like depression and OCD with both insight and humour.

She gives her characters words of wisdom: “They’re playing with us, aren’t they?.....The gods. We think we understand, we’ve invented science, but we haven’t a clue. Maybe the clever people are not the ones who think they’re clever. Maybe the clever people are the ones who accept they know nothing” and “Sometimes caring for something already growing is more perilous than planting something new”. On more than one occasion, the reader may well be moved to tears. Fans of Joyce’s work will not be disappointed and newcomers will want to seek out her other books. A moving and uplifting read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Well written but very conventional format, 21 Mar. 2014
By 
Janie U (Kings Cliffe, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Perfect (Hardcover)
I adored Rachel Joyce's Harold Fry and was looking forward to seeing what she would do next.
This story splits between two times, which is an overused structure in literary fiction. 1976 when a major event occurs and the present day when we try to make sense of the consequences of what happened all those decades ago.
Byran and Jim are the main characters in each of the time zones and, whilst it is all written as third person, the reader gets right into the heads of each of them. In particular, the description of their anxieties comes across very clearly and they both have a feeling of being old fashioned oddities in their time. There are also some beautiful descriptions of their surroundings.
The chapters are short and alternate between the characters. This meant that the start of the book was a bit unsettling as they both took some time to establish themselves. Towards the end of the book the length of the chapters increased which I thought could have been done the other way around, allowing the characters more time to breathe at the beginning.
The plot is great and the story darkens as various twists and turns are revealed. The ending is plausible and satisfying but the lead up to it is a bit rushed with a huge amount being crammed into the final 30 pages.
Harold Fry was a hard act to follow and RJ does a pretty good job but can't seem to resist using a format which has ceased to be unusual. I hope she can find something unique again for her next book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The suppositions of children....., 7 Mar. 2014
By 
Mrs. R. A. Sayer "Bussell" (Alton Hampshire UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Perfect (Paperback)
can lead to a change in the gravity of adult relationships. This book reminded me of Michael Frayn's 'Spies', where the actions of the children lead to an eventual breakdown of all the characters. In 'Perfect'. In 1972, it is an addition of 2 seconds to the time, by the Government, that causes events to unfold into tragedy and mental illness. How well Jim's OCD is portrayed in the present day, how harrowing is the treatment he receives, the reader will have to reach the end of this book to discover what has caused this.
Diana, Byron's mother, is so like another Diana, no-one could fail to recognise her. Beautiful, correct, lonely in the large house in the countryside, with a cold unfeeling controlling husband, mixing with the 'wrong' people. Yet, she tries so intently to be 'perfect'.
Like other readers, the tension seems almost unbearable and I had to put the book down at intervals to regain some reality. I thought I had guessed the connection between Jim and Byron. I was wrong, but, then again from a different point of view, I was right.
The ending is sad but so true. Redemption beckons, if it is allowed in.
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27 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even up until three-quarters of the way through it was a 3-4 star book, and then I realised it was a STONKER of a good read !!, 10 Oct. 2013
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Interesting ... I read 'Perfect' to within the last quarter of the book feeling vaguely saddened that Rachel Joyce's latest book was not a patch on The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry ... and I confess even writing this review in my head, placing it at around a three to four star read ... when; Hey Presto! The book suddenly turned around somewhere in my psyche, and bowled me over !!!

Beautifully written. Turned me from half-bored, into tears in a couple of passages. A Definite FIVE STARS !!!
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Perfect
Perfect by Rachel Joyce (Paperback - 27 Feb. 2014)
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