Entertainment :: Books

Perfect

by Daniel Scheffler
Contributor
Monday Feb 17, 2014
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Rachel Joyce is an English writer who is known for her debut novel, "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry," which was on the Man Booker prize long list. A few years later she returns with a totally new slant,"Perfect."

Her latest, not nearly as gripping as her previous, is lighter and perhaps not all together interesting enough to warrant hours of reading. Granted, the premise is excellent - 2 seconds get added to the watch of our little hero, 11-year-old Byron Hemmings, and so things spin out of control, but only so slightly.

It’s as if Joyce couldn’t quite commit to her latest work. She spins the story like a yarn that calls out for a desperate mill, but that’s about it. Where is the back-story? Why isn’t the character darker than what he seems to be? Is there a deeper meaning behind all of this? It’s as if you’re cutting deep into your flesh and there seems to be no blood, but instead of cutting deeper Joyce just abandons the ritual.

Her writing is lyrical and she has a beautiful voice, which comes out in her novel -- she’s written for the BBC, so she knows what to do. She draws inspiration from beautiful England and a valley outside her home, but somehow she cannot go there this time. She stands gazing up at the nature that resists her caress.

The worst part about the book is that it started with the best idea ever. She speaks about it in interviews. She was stretched to the extreme; she was almost out of control; she realized her fragility, and that she could crumble at any point. But still, she seemed to not be able to translate that into her piece of fiction. So knowing that it could, with no doubt, have been so much better makes it difficult to just accept it and move on.

She’s witty, she’s profound -- I know this about Joyce. But her latest book coughs just once in your face and then it stops to thrill. So unfortunately, it’s not Perfect at all.

"Perfect"
Rachel Joyce
$15.81
Random House

Daniel Scheffler is a writer who spends his time in New York, Cape Town and India. Follow him on Twitter @danielscheffler

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