Friday, November 29, 2013

Not perfect, but close


By Rachel Joyce

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Great literary dramas strive on understatement. From the first few pages of Rachel Joyce's nearly perfect Perfect, we know there will be tragedy. We know it will affect two children in traumatic ways. But the author leads us on oh so slowly, giving us bits and pieces as we need them. We are given a tantalizing premise at the first page. In 1972, James Lowe tells his best friend Byron Hemmings, that 2 seconds were added onto time to keep it in sync with the earth's movement. What James accepts as an exciting bit of trivia, Bryon reacts with fear. Then an unfortunate event occurs that cements Bryon's fear that reality has been thrown out of whack. Everything that follows comes from these occurrences.

But the novel is about much more than tragedy. It is told in alternating stories. One taking place in the 70s and another happening about 40 years later.They intersect well with all the details being filled as we read the novel. As important to the story as Jim and Bryon is Bryon's mother, Diana. She is in a position of privilege but is uncomfortable to it and as delicate to reality as her son Bryon. The British author is taking on the issue of class with some devastating frankness. I was also impressed by Joyce's depiction of the Hemmings family. The father is often absent and while Diana tries to be a good mother, her relation to Bryon is more like equals than mother and son. We find the son often taking the role of dispensing advice to his mother which only heighten the sense of doom as we watch both of them unraveling.

It a delicate and beautiful balancing act. James seems to be on the outskirt of the action but often the instigator. He is seen by others as the troublemaker and maybe a bit unhinged but one of the delights in this novel is in discovering the true connection with the characters and especially the connection to the two individuals depicts in the two alternating stories.

The novel grabbed me from the first page yet some may find it a little plodding and frustrating. I can only say stick with it and you will be rewarded and maybe a little stunned with the end like I was.

Method acquired: Netgalley

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