The Idea of Perfection is the fifth novel by Australian author, Kate Grenville. Set in the dying country town of Karakarook, NSW, pop.1374, the story revolves around the Bent Bridge: the Heritage mob (Karakarook Heritage Museum Committee) believes it can attract tourists; the Shire councillors want to tear this now-dangerous construction down. Enter divorcee Douglas Cheeseman, engineer from the Lands Office, in town to tear down the old bridge and start construction of the replacement. A self-confessed bridge bore who suffers from fear of heights, he can see a way to save the old bridge but lacks the guts to do anything about it. The other newcomer in town is Harley Savage, Consultant (Part-time) to the Curator (Textiles) at the Sydney Museum of Applied Arts, here to help establish the Karakarook Heritage Museum on a grant from the Cultural Affairs Board. Descended from famous artists, Harley, who has gone through three husbands, considers herself a danger to anyone who gets too close; she is big and clumsy, and lacks creativity, except when it comes to quilts. Felicity, neurotic wife of Hugh Porcelline, manager of the Karakarook branch of the Land & Pastoral Bank, believes that the local butcher, Alfred Chang, is in love with her. How their lives intersect is made into a mesmerising story by this talented novelist. Grenville's descriptions bring her characters vividly to life and she conveys the feel of the country town and "the bush" so well, the reader almost feels the heat and the flies. City dwellers Harley and Douglas find this town different: "But out here, she could see people went by different rules. You did not just pick out the best bits of life. You took the whole lot, the good and the bad. You forgave people for being who they were, and you hoped they would be able to forgive you. Now and again you were rewarded with the small pleasure of being able to laugh, not uproariously but genuinely, at a small witticism offered by someone who was usually a bore.
More that the heat and the flies, that was what made the bush feel like another country, where anything was possible."
Grenville has the power to made the reader laugh and squirm and think about life and being perfect, or not. Winner of the 2001 Orange Prize, this was a wonderful read, my favourite Grenville book so far, and I think it would make an excellent movie.show more
by Marianne Vincent