I received a review copy of Perfect by Rachel Joyce via NetGalley. I’m not compensated for this review beyond my free copy and this review is in no way influenced by the fact I was asked to write it.
Here is the synopsis:
In 1972, two seconds were added to time. It was in order to balance clock time with the movement of the earth. Byron Hemming knows this because James Lowe has told him and James is the cleverest boy at school. But how can time change? The steady movement of hands around a clock is as certain as their golden futures.
Then Byron’s mother, late for the school run, makes a devastating mistake. Byron’s perfect world is shattered. Were those two extra seconds to blame? Can what follows ever be set righ
OK so first I must admit that I thought the two second thing was a fictional joke and at the end of the book would turn out not to be true. It turns out however it’s real and since 1972 when they were first added 25 leap seconds have been added to our clocks. You can read more about that here. But my mind? Officially blown.
This is the first review I’ve written in a long time where I’m not quite sure what to say. All the way through reading this book I was really liking it and thinking how good and powerful it was. This is Rachel Joyce’s second book. Her first is The Unlikely Pilgramage of Harold Fry. I’ve not read that and as I was reading Perfect I kept thinking “I need to read her other book really soon.” and wondering if I was right in thinking my Mum has read it (answer: I don’t know, I kept forgetting to ask her).
Mental health issues play a huge role in the plot and whilst the ones covered aren’t similar to my own struggles with depression and anxiety I did think they were realistic and I could relate to some of what the characters were going through. For at least one of the characters in the book their mental health was very disabling and their experiences of being “different” don’t match mine in that my own disabilities are physical but bits rang a bell. I must say that the need for disabled characters in books who are realistic, not the stereotypical object of pity, inspiration or the hero or villian is something I truly believe I need and something I’ve blogged about a few times before (probably more than a few times come to think of it). There do seem to be a lot more books out there nowadays that not only attempt this but manage to do it and do it very well. And I’m really, really pleased about that. But it seems to me that the focus is solely on either autism or mental health problems. Both are important conditions and both should be included in fiction and films and the media because it does help to show that disability is just a normal thing that happens and doesn’t need to be hidden away or feared or pitied or whatever. But I do wonder where they physically disabled characters are? Where are the people like me?
When I got to the end of the book there was a big twist as there often is in a book. I didn’t guess it and in fact I’m relatively confident in saying it’s so obscure I doubt anyone could. I felt a bit put out by that twist though because it didn’t seem to do anything… and I’m not sure I understood what the point of it was. So it’s a bit disappointing and has left me wondering if the message I want to give in this review is “this is a good book that I liked” or “the ending was so confusing I don’t think it’s worth reading.” And I’m not sure if I do still want to read Harold Fry either because
the internet rumour has it there’s a similar WTF twist in that.