Review – Perfect by Rachel Joyce

By | July 21, 2013

I’m one of the very few people I know who hasn’t read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, but I wasn’t really attracted to it. But the premise of this story drew me in:

In 1972, two seconds were added to time. It was in order to balance clock time with the movement of the earth. Byron Hemming knew this because James Lowe had told him and James was the cleverest boy at school. But how could time change? The steady movement of hands around a clock was as certain as their golden futures.

Then Byron’s mother, late for the school run, makes a devastating mistake. Byron’s perfect world is shattered. Were those two extra seconds to blame? Can what follows ever be set right?

Eleven year old Byron – a day boy at Winston House private school – learns from his friend James about the two seconds, and becomes obsessed by the potential effect it might have, “the difference between something happening and not happening”. His fears become reality when his mother Diana knocks down a child when crossing a council estate and is apparently unaware that anything has happened. Byron and James launch ‘Operation Perfect’ to investigate the accident and protect Diana from the consequences.

In alternating chapters, there is a present day story about Jim, who lives in a camper van and works in a supermarket cafe, having spent years in Besley Hill psychiatric hospital.  Jim’s life is ruled by OCD rituals, greeting his possessions and sealing up his van. His life is changed when he befriends the larger than life Eileen, and he begins to believe that his life could be a great deal better.

The link between the two stories – both equally absorbing – only become clear towards the novel’s end and is wonderfully handled. The characters leap off the page throughout –  Diana’s attempts to fit into the world of mothers of children at Byron’s school, the difficult relationship with her husband, her brush with the world outside her class, Jim with his mental health issues and the wonderful Eileen. This is an uplifting read – despite the moments of extreme sadness – and I found it entrancing. Full of people who don’t really fit into their worlds, it leaves you with hope and a belief in the healing power of love.

Maybe I should read Harold Fry after all – I really like Rachel Joyce’s writing style, and I loved this one.

Visit Rachel Joyce’s website to view the video trailer.

4 thoughts on “Review – Perfect by Rachel Joyce

  1. Beady Janet

    Great review – I'm looking forward to getting my hands on this one – was turned down on Netgalley 🙁
    However I must insist you do try Harold Fry – I enjoyed it and think you would too, having a good idea of your reading tastes.

  2. Anne

    I was really disappointed by Harold Fry and felt that is was very preachy, however, I do still want to read this one. Thanks for the review x

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