It’s Summer 1972, and eleven-year-old Byron’s organised, and perfectly synced, life is about to change for ever when he learns from his best friend James that an extra two seconds have been added to time in order to join it with the earths movement. For Byron, these two seconds are off course and have the ability to change the path of life as he knows it, and not for the better. So when his mother Diana heads towards a personal crisis after an unfortunate event, Byron blames her impending doom on the appearance of these two seconds and, along with James, makes it his mission to save her whilst shielding her from the harsh world she finds herself unable to cope in. By appointing themselves as her keepers over the long hot school summer holidays, Byron and James take on an enormous role, but effectively they are just children and Diana’s weariness and unmasked depression becomes too much for them both to cope with, leaving Byron also struggling to make sense and relate to an often strange and hostile world. Believing that only he can make things better, Byron is slowly consumed by the enormity of the situation he finds himself in and it eventually becomes clear that his mother needs professional help.
Present day, Jim, a middle-aged man, lives his life governed by his OCD. Alone and trapped in a frightening compulsive cycle which he has no control over, the only constant in his life is his job in a local cafe. But there is more to Jim’s life than those around him realise, and he too is a product of those all too familiar additional two seconds.
Rachel Joyce is the wonderfully talented author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and the ever so successful addition to that book (and my personal favourite book of all time!), The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy. Therefore, you expect and indeed get a passionate story, intricately written in the form of Perfect. Joyce is a master at her craft and the passion for her characters is always evident in their creation. It is heart-breaking to watch Byron struggle to cope with the enormity of taking on the role of both mother and father and consequently it is just as hard to witness Jim as an adult struggling to cope with the practicalities of modern life. In terms of being emotionally provoking, this book is in fact perfect! Fans of Joyce’s Harold and Queenie will not be disappointed at Perfect, with its continued insight into what makes us and drives us as human beings. However, after setting the bar high with her two previous books, Joyce is always going to have a tough time improving on her previous work, which many felt warranted the label of perfection, and in my own personal opinion I don’t think that Perfect quite manages to reach the standard of either of them but, nevertheless, it is still a beautifully written book and well worth the read.
Perfect is out now to buy.