‘Perfect’ book review: Rachel Joyce

I’ve just finished this book and I’m in shock at the ending. As with all of Rachel’s Joyce’s stories, they capture just a glimpse into human life but that glimpse is just as vivid as your own.  Her characters in particular no matter what role they play in the story are so well rounded and memorable they will stay with you long after the final page has been turned.  It tells 2 intertwining stories; one of Byron, an eleven-year-old boy from a wealthy family who has a weird obsession with time and how things happen. One summer morning in June 1972, his fragile mother who is trying so hard to be perfect drives them to school a different and only Byron sees his mother hit a young girl and this changes everything.  The second story tells the story of Jim, a lonely middle-aged man struggling desperately with  OCD and wiping tables in the local cafe every day for a living. I found his story in a way more moving than that first because his struggles are laid bare and so raw that it broke my heart to know he’d spent his whole life like this, that he had no family, had never been with a women and had to been forced to live caged up in a caravan.

Credit to Year of the Yes Blog for their fantastic Picture. Don’t forget to go and check them out.

There are many key themes in this. book from responsibility and gender to class and childhood. However, a very prevalent theme which really struck me is loneliness. It is embodied both by the lonely and beautiful yet desolate landscape that surrounds the story and also in people’s marriages and relationships. Byron’s childhood without being allowed to see his best friend seems almost as lonely as his mother’s marriage or Jim’s solitary existence 40 years later. It’s also about sadness and the way we all struggle in silence and sometimes we struggle for a lifetime without realising that everyone is feeling what we feel and we’re not as alone as we think. I did find the pacing of it a bit slow at times and sometimes I was much more invested in Jim’s story but it all comes together and I think everyone should read this book, even if it’s just for the shock at the end which Joyce pulls off perfectly. There’s no better feeling then when an author has you rereading the last 3 pages to work if you what you just read is actually true.I had to sit for a moment digesting what I’d just read. As I think everyone should read this, whether exploring how people used to view mental health or to be moved by the redemption at the end of the book. Or even for the twist. You won’t be disappointed. I promise.

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