“The gods. We think we understand, we’ve invented science, but we haven’t a clue. Maybe the clever people are not the ones who think they’re clever. Maybe the clever people are the ones who accept they know nothing.”
Author: Rachel Joyce Published: 2013 Pages: 440
Perfect is a novel set in 1972, when two seconds were added to time in order to counteract the irregularities in the Earth’s rate of rotation. Eleven year old boy, Byron Hemming and his friend James Lowe both know this, but Byron is haunted by it and can’t understand how time could change. Then one day, Byron witnesses a disastrous mistake made by his mother while on their way back from school. Unsure whether the extra seconds were to blame for this, Byron and James begin “Operation Perfect” to try and help Byron’s mother avoid her imminent fate. We are also introduced to Jim, a middle aged man in the present day. Struggling to maintain his job cleaning tables in a cafe while coping with the crushing reality of OCD, Joyce presents a unique character who is haunted by his past. While the two stories seem unrelated at first, as the plot develops we are made aware of why they are interlinked.
Perfect is beautifully written. It tackles the interesting and unique perspective of a character who has OCD, and gives the reader an insightful view of him growing up and dealing with everyday situations and problems. Joyce perfects the ability to portray characters in a way which evokes sympathy while still allowing them to be plausible.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, it was written well and gave a very interesting perspective on the struggles of a man suffering from a mental illness. I particularly enjoyed the narration from Jim on the mundane activities he encounters in his life. His OCD not only prevents him from doing things that everyone else enjoys, but confines him to crippling routines in order to satisfy the demands of his condition. While the book’s main story was very stimulating, I found at times Joyce presented characters who were a little too superficial and lacked necessary depth. Compliant and orderly Diana was a little too cliché to make her interesting. Her lack of protest towards her controlling husband Seymour, as well as her “perfect” appearance made for a tedious character development. Furthermore, Diana’s would be friend Beverly, is too much of a polar opposite of Diana to make her realistic or compelling.
However, on the whole, I thought Perfect raised thought-provoking questions about gender roles in the 1970s and the very apparent stigma attached to mental illness, even in the present day. She delves deep into the reasons mental-illness is a difficult subject to understand, while portraying Jim with dignity and raw courage.