The Idea of PerfectionPaperback
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- Publisher: PICADOR
- Format: Paperback | 416 pages
- Dimensions: 132mm x 194mm x 30mm | 281g
- Publication date: 1 October 2006
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 0330392611
- ISBN 13: 9780330392617
- Sales rank: 19,726
'Grenville makes awkward atmospheres and fumbling encounters wonderfully vivid. Read it and cringe' The Times The Idea of Perfection is a funny and touching romance between two people who've given up on love. Set in the eccentric little backwater of Karakarook, New South Wales, pop. 1374, it tells the story of Douglas Cheeseman, a gawky engineer with jug-handle ears, and Harley Savage, a woman altogether too big and too abrupt for comfort. Harley is in Karakarook to foster 'Heritage', and Douglas is there to pull down the quaint old Bent Bridge. From day one, they're on a collison course. But out of this unpromising conjunction of opposites, something unexpected happens: sometimes even better than perfection. 'From these two reticent characters, besieged by two lifetimes of regret, doubt and dismay, Grenville manufactures an extraordinary comedy of manners, made all more powerful by her own reticence as a writer' Guardian 'Outrageously entertaining' Daily Mail 'Mined throughout with little pockets of danger and depth' Guardian 'A truly amazing writer' Rosie Boycott, chair of the Orange Prize jury
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By Marianne Vincent 02 Apr 2012
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.
Harley Savage with her 'dangerous streak' and Douglas Cheesman with his jug handle ears and vertigo both arrive in the little backwater of Karakarook. She is setting up the heritage museum while he is there to pull down the Bent Bridge, a local landmark. The Idea of Perfection tells the story of how these extraordinary characters, battered by past loves and scarred by life, find each other. Grenville, an Australian writer, vividly describes life in this rural New South Wales backwater. Her skilful touch effectively weaves the central narrative with a subplot that is both funny and tragic. The characters are well-drawn and empathetic, and the undercurrent themes of suppressed passion and sorrow engage the reader. This is a superb novel. (Kirkus UK)