I read Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry last year and really enjoyed it. It was a hand-me-down from my mom’s book club, which can go either way (some of their choices, like Gone Girl and The Husband’s Secret, have been brilliant, while others, like Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, have not been so great).
So when Val, who I work with at the bookstore, chose Rachel Joyce’s new novel, Perfect, as one of her staff picks, I figured it was worth a read. I’ve been craving a little taste of the UK and there’s something about British books that I just love. Perfect is quite different than Harold Fry (this is good, because who wants to read the same thing over and over again?). The story alternates between Jim, who is in his 50s, suffers from OCD and lives in Cranham Village, and flashbacks to the summer of 1972 when best friends James and Byron unwittingly set off a series of unlikely and catastrophic events when they realize that two seconds will be added to the world clock.
The Guardian did a really nice and accurate review of Perfect, which it called “more ambitious, darker and more honest” than Harold Fry. I’d be inclined to agree. It’s not entirely a happy book, although I was thoroughly entertained by it (and who says all books have to be happy, anyway?). Perfect is a story of friendship, but it’s also a story of family love, manipulation, good and evil – and it’s also a bit of a mystery with a twist ending I genuinely didn’t see coming.
I’ve been plugging away at this in the evenings (alternating with an amazing piece of nonfiction that I’ll probably finish up on the weekend) since classes began in mid-January, and I would say that it’s a pretty quick and easy read. I probably could have polished it off in a night or two if this pesky little thing called homework would stop getting in the way! I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes contemporary British fiction, gentle mysteries and books with lots of talking points.