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Not so perfect.
on 27 May 2014
I've heard so much about "Perfect", and here I am, giving it 2 stars. The premise is so mystifying, so pregnant with drama and things to come: in 1972, two seconds are added to time, and these two seconds are seeds to all the things to come. Ah Rachel Joyce, I wish you would have done something dramatically different with those 2 seconds.
The book focuses on Byron and James, two privileged boys attending an independent school in the middle of nowhere. James is the smart one, perhaps a bit distracted and nerdy, it is James who shares his knowledge about 2 extra seconds with Byron. And Byron, overweight and best friends with his mother Diana, a beauty with a mysterious past (or so we are lead to believe), starts to believe that 2 extra seconds could not bring anything good into the world. What if something happens? And indeed it does. The plot sounds pretty straightforward, the narrative is evocative and you are just waiting for the twist.
Alternating chapters revolve around an old man Jim, damaged character whose is living in a van and does not remember (or does not want to remember) much about his past, and who is busy counting his ones ant twos.
So, here we are, Byron, James, Jim. And Diana, who tries hard (or does she?) to be a perfect wife, who refuses to be one of the other "mothers", who is scared of her husband Seymour and who starts to hang out with an unlikely friend Beverley after an accident that happened in the 2 extra seconds of time one sunny spring day.
It all sounds very compelling in the review, but does not open up beautifully on the paper. I felt Rachel Joyce was trying hard to make a book a gripping read on manipulation and friendship and relationships and our choices, but it all came out a bit rigid and stiff, the one character who entertained me was Beverley (and, less so, Eileen), the one and only lively person in the narrative, a solid presence.
Overall, I found "Perfect" to be unclear, rambling and miserable (without redemption). While the author wrote knowingly about the boys, I found her descriptions of Jim and his encounters with the world quite patchy and laborious, especially his relationship with Eileen - completely unbelievable.