I chose this months book club book, Rachel Joyce’s Perfect, because it is one of those books that I think about often. I read it a few years ago, having read her previous novel (the unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry) and enjoyed it so much. To me, thinking about a book long after you’ve put it down is a sign of a good read and I thought this was reason enough to share it with my fellow book clubbers.
The synopsis says:
Summer, 1972: In the claustrophobic heat, eleven-year-old Byron and his friend begin ‘Operation Perfect’, a hapless mission to rescue Byron’s mother from impending crisis.
Winter, present day: As frost creeps across the moor, Jim cleans tables in the local café, a solitary figure struggling with OCD. His job is a relief from the rituals that govern his nights.
Little would seem to connect them except that two seconds can change everything.
And if your world can be shattered in an instant, can time also put it right?
The book’s narration is shared between Byron and Jim – set four decades apart. The idea at the centre of the book is two extra seconds that are added into a leap year (something we were somewhat alarmed to hear also happened a few weeks ago!) and the enormity of what can happen in this space of time.
One of the things that struck me about Rachel Joyce’s writing was her meticulous attention to detail when describing the beautiful countryside in which Byron grows up. She paints an idyllic picture of an upper class summer in the 1970s.
Some of book club found the book to be an easy read, and didn’t think in first glance that there was a huge amount to talk about. But on delving further we ended up discussing issues of class, gender, feminism, mental health, relationships and politics to name but a few. Which for me is one of the best things about book club.
As half of the book is written by a young boy, there is a enchanting naivety surrounding some of the goings on that Byron encounters. This led to a lot of personal interpretation about certain storylines, which was fascinating to hear how we had all drawn different conclusions in reading exactly the same thing. Did the accident happen? Was that just water in Diana’s glass? It’s up to the reader to decide.
We were mostly in agreement that some of the characters, mainly the coffee shop workers, were a bit over the top, and unnecessary. But, certainly for me, Jim and Byron were portrayed excellently and left me with fond affection for them. Their stories will stay with me for some time yet.
So why not give it a read yourself, and let us know what you think!