Avid book reader. Lover of fantasy, contemporary fiction, short stories and non-fiction. This blog is a work in progress - and it will likely always be that way.
I absolutely loved Rachel Joyce’s debut novel ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’, so I was excited to start her latest one. And as it often goes with books you’re really excited about: some of my hopes were satisfied, some a bit less. But that doesn’t change the fact that this is a really nice book that many people will enjoy reading.
Two alternating stories are being told in this novel. The most interesting one takes place in 1972, the year that two seconds were going to be added to the clock because time was out of joint with the movement of the Earth. The thought terrifies Byron Hemmings, an 11-year-old upper class boy: Time is not something to be tampered with.
“The addition of two seconds was extremely exciting, said James. First, man had put a man on the moon. Now they were going to alter time. But how could two seconds exist where two seconds had not existed before?”
One morning everything goes wrong: shattered glass at the breakfast table, traffic jams and to avoid being late they drive through Digby Road, a place the upper class doesn’t go. And just then, Byron notices his watch go one second back and then one second forward again. Time was being added right there, and in two seconds a lot can happen.
“Nothing happened by itself. And even though it was not his mother’s fault, even though no one knew about the accident, there must be repercussions. He listened to the clocks all over the house, ticking and tocking and chiming their passage through time.
One day – if not now, then in the future – someone would have to pay.”
I loved the way this part of the story was written: Byron’s unease about the two seconds, his stunted attempts to right the wrongs, the daily visits of people who don’t seem to belong there and the stubborn refusal of his sister to accept them.
There is a second story being told in current time, and though this additional storyline brings some depth to the novel, it still failed to grab me and all I wanted was to go back to 1972. The second story’s ending also didn’t really work for me: the sunshine breaks through the skies a bit too bright and sudden. I would have been happier for it to end with just the suggestion of rainbows and sunshine ahead.
In many ways, I think this book has more mature plot and theme than her previous novel did. The opposition of upper class versus lower class works out really well for instance, but I thought it was less strong on the characters. There are some really intriguing ones especially in the back story with Byron, Lucy and their mother, but none of them grabbed me like Harold Fry did.
The biggest grievance I have is about the title though: ‘Perfect’ is such a weird title for a book like this. First of that word has been overused by chick-lit and romance novels and many people who would enjoy this novel might not even consider it because of that title; but above all – I don’t think it covers the book really well.
I’ve noticed that nearly all translations have changed the title, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence, because all of these titles (which I clumsily translated - except for the Icelandic, that’s all google translate's work) would work so much better for this book.
Dutch: ‘The day time stood still’
French: ‘Two seconds too much’
German: ‘The year that brought two seconds more’
Italian: ‘The bizarre incident of stolen time’
Icelandic: ‘When two seconds were added to time’
But in the end, a title is just that: a title. It doesn’t change the story itself, and I think that anyone who loved reading about Harold Fry, will enjoy reading Byron’s story as well.
Disclaimer: This book has been provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This review reflects my own experience and opinion with this book. All quotes are taken from the pre-published copy and may be altered or omitted from the final copy.