Review: Perfect by Rachel Joyce

June 2, 2014
Author: Rachel Joyce
Publisher: Random House
Year: 2013
ISBN: 9780812993301
Rating: ★★★★☆
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Perfect by Rachel Joyce is a story that tracks two plotlines simultaneously, both imbued with their own gamut of emotions. The astounding climax meshes these two plots together, with surprising results. 

In 2012, an author made an envious debut into the world of literary fiction with The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, an international bestseller. A year later, from the same author comes a bewitching tale of love, hurt and redemption a.k.a Perfect.

Rachel Joyce’s second novel has two storylines, one set in 1972 and the other set in the present day. The plot opens in 1972, where 11 year old Byron is terrified that 2 seconds will be added to time for balancing the world clock. He has this information courtesy his best friend James, who is the smartest guy in his school. One fateful day, Byron’s mother, Diana, is running late to drop the kids at school and makes a terrible mistake at the exact moment when Byron sees his watch go into reverse for 2 seconds. Unaware of her fault, Diana drives on. To keep her insulated from the truth, Byron and James, who has a crush on Diana, devise ‘Operation Perfect’ that acts as a buffer to protect Diana from the consequences of her mistake.

The second storyline is set in the present day and follows Jim, who is a lonely middle-aged man and a former psychiatric patient. He keeps a simple job under an unsympathetic manager, deals with the social stigma attached to mental illness and is struggling to understand a world he does not connect to.

Rachel Joyce’s use of similes and metaphors in her narration effectively attenuates the storyline. Joyce has painstakingly sketched her characters and filled them with diverse colors of emotions. There is Byron with innocence so intense that he can melt the hearts of millions and there is Jim, a man battling OCD and stigma but still retaining a layer of gentleness. Then of course there is Diana, a beautiful lady trapped in a loveless marriage who finally embarks on her quest for freedom.

The only disfavoring feature in this novel is that the story tries to include too many situations in addition to the already existing cliffhangers that may cause the reader to become restless. The plot looks complex with two seemingly mutually exclusive storylines running parallel to each other; both stories have little in common except the summer of 1972. However, the biggest twist of the novel is the link that joins the two stories together, bringing the past and the present together in the same frame. A bewitching twist that hardly anyone will see coming ends the book on a high note, leaving the readers overwhelmed and amazed. Irrespective of age group, anyone who enjoys the thrill of the chase will not be disappointed with the book.

Check out an interview on Perfect here, and see what Rachel Joyce has to offer on her website

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