Perfect is the eagerly awaited second novel from Rachel Joyce, author of the hugely successful The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. I have been very lucky to receive a limited edition proof as not only have I been able to read the book in advance of its July release, my copy has also been signed and included a very cute 'Perfect' pin!
Like Harold Fry, this book is full of moving and poignant moments and like Harold, Byron the young boy this novel focuses on, is on a life-changing journey, although this time it is in the form of growing up and making radical decisions rather than physically moving through locations.
Byron and James are two middle-class boys growing up in the 1970s. Byron becomes obsessed with the fact that two seconds are going to be added to the year and has a sense of foreboding about day that this will happen on. He looks up to his best friend James and relies on his sense and intelligence about several matters. One morning, while Bryon's mother Diana is driving him and sister Lucy to school, a series of events results in an accident, which Byron blames on the extra two seconds and becomes completely fixated with.
Byron and James come up with 'Operation Perfect' to investigate the accident and the resulting events in depth. But things escalate and what happens will effect both of them for the rest of their lives...
I really enjoyed Rachel Joyce's writing throughout the novel and loved the characters of Byron and Diana. Their relationship is beautiful as Byron is growing up and trying to protect and look after his Mum, taking on the role of his father who is always absent through working at the city or on shooting holidays with his friends in Scotland. Diana is stuck in her new middle-class world of competing with the other mums with her house, garden and brand new BMW, which is so different from her previous life as a performer. She has given up everything for this lifestyle and I really felt for her as she struggles to keep it all together and occasionally stand up for her beliefs in front of the other snobby mothers. Diana's tentative friendship with working-class Beverley is at times fraught and tense with the characters' backgrounds and circumstances being expertly explored by the author.
The novel also tells the story of a 50+ year old man called Jim set in the present day. His struggles with mental health including acute OCD are written about sensitively and the help he receives from teenage work colleague Paula and her boyfriend Darren are lovely moments which show kindness and friendship can come from the most unlikely of places.
I thoroughly enjoyed Perfect and read it within three days. It is, dare I say it, even better than Harold Fry. Full of some really well-drawn characters, heart-breaking moments and beautiful observation, I can't wait for this book to be released and receive the success and acclaim it deserves. Plus, it HAS to be a future choice for my book group! Roll on Rachel Joyce's third novel...
Perfect is released on 4th July. Pre-order a copy from Waterstones here