The Idea of Perfection, Paperback
4.5 out of 5 (4 ratings)


'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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Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews.

Review by
The Idea of Perfection takes place in the Australian town of Karakarook, NSW, population 1374. Harley Savage, a middle-aged textile artist, travels from Sydney to create a heritage museum. Douglas Cheeseman, an engineer, is sent to demolish an old bridge. From this initial setup I expected intense conflict and community uprising, but that turned out to be secondary to the story of human foibles and relationships. Both Douglas and Harley are unmarried; he is divorced and she is a widow. Both are lonely, but they resist forming relationships with others. Douglas remains on the fringe of the local work crew. Harley feels awkward with others, and stubbornly resists a stray dog's repeated attentions. Both draw gradually to one another. In fact, the entire book moves in a very gradual manner. Grenville oh-so-slowly reveals details that build a complete picture of the main characters and the town's citizens. At the beginning of the book, Douglas is looking out of an upstairs hotel room window. Only later, after learning he suffers from vertigo, does it become clear that just looking out the window was an accomplishment. Details of Harley's childhood and married life are droppped like a trail of breadcrumbs. Slowly the reader sees these two, their physical imperfections, and their inherent inner goodness. In contrast, Grenville introduces local housewife Felicity Porcelline, who is portrayed -- again, gradually -- as someone obsessed with her appearance, the cleanliness of her home, and her son's academic performance. She appears perfect on the outside, but inside she leads a self-centered, deceptive life. This book had a surprisingly strong impact on me. I loved the slow reveal of the characters, and their ultimate depth. And while the book moved quickly, Grenville suggests plot in the same way she does her characters. There were many times in this novel where she made a subtle point that connected several other events in a way that literally left me wide-eyed, astonished, and saying "OH ... !!" out loud. The Idea of Perfection is sure to be one of my top reads of 2008.
Review by

Beautifully written, you can feel the heat, really imagine that you're there in the Australian bush with the dust, heat, birds, sky.

Review by

This was deliberately slow-moving, so took me a time to be drawn in to this isolated Australian backwater. But Grenville is brilliant at evoking the lonely, socially awkward, and self-conscious. Her characters are beautifully drawn, and I admired the way that their pasts were only very gradually revealed. She also understands dogs too!Wry, original and heart-warming.

Review by

This was a great book in very quiet, unassuming way, and was all about the journey rather than the destination. Essentially it is a story about life, about how mundaneness, honesty and simplicity can all collide when least expected to put everything in it's place again.I thought the prose was terrific, capturing so eloquently the little things which often go unsaid, like how we tend to walk awkwardly when we feel we're being watched, or allow a constant stream of negative narrative in our heads to close the door to opportunity. The characters were terrific - very believable, very visual, all people we've come across in our lives at one time or another - and I enjoyed the unfamiliar setting of a backwater town in the Australian outback.This is definitely a slow burn book that is all about the writing. The plot is nothing more than a snapshot of life itself, but then what more interesting or believable plot is there?

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