Posts Tagged ‘perfection’

Hope Arden is a woman who everyone forgets – quite literally. Someone can meet her, have a conversation with her, sleep with her even, and when she goes away they have no recollection of her, so every time she meets someone it is the first time for them. This makes it hard for her to make friends, forge relationships or hold down a job, but it’s very useful tool for an international jewel thief, which is what Hope becomes. She then becomes embroiled in a plot to steal an app called Perfection. The app awards points to people for improving themselves or their lives, such as having the right cosmetic treatments, going to the right gym enough, or buying the right food; it tracks your every movement – and quite frankly sounds awful, and perilously close to where we are in real life.

There are some interesting ideas about what it means to be perfect, and what it means to be memorable, and there is no doubt that some of the writing is very beautiful and clever. However, this book did not really work for me – I did not like the stream of consciousness style of narrative (although I have previously written other books written in a similar way and enjoyed them) and I did not like the constant flying off at tangents.

I did think that for someone who is forgettable, Hope was a very fully fleshed out character who the reader got to know and essentially root for, even if she was not always likeable. But none of the other main players were ever really more than cardboard cutouts. I stayed up late to finish this book, which usually means one of two things; either I am loving a book and can’t put it down, or I want to get to the end of it, precisely so that I CAN put it down. This was a case of the latter. It’s not badly written, far from it, and I liked the two main threads – Hope’s forgettability and the Perfection app. But it never really worked and I didn’t feel any sort of connect. I do have another book by Claire North, and I will give it a go at some point.

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The small town of Karakarook, New South Wales, is divided about it’s old bridge.  Some of them want it pulled down as it is unsafe, and others want to preserve it for the sake of heritage.  Harley Savage and Douglas Cheeseman arrive in Karakarook and find themselves on opposite sides of the argument.

Harley and Douglas are both emotionally stunted, shocked almost into numbness by events in their respective histories, and when they meet each other, neither of them know how to begin to open up to another person – and neither of them wants to risk being vulnerable.  Can these two lost souls find happiness within themselves….?

Woven into the story about Harley, Douglas and the bridge, is the tale of Felicity Porcelline, unhappily married to the manager of the bank in Karakarook.  Felicity is obsessed with the idea of perfection – of looking perfect (to the extent where she is frightened to smile or even nod her head, for fear of causing wrinkles), of running a perfect home and giving the appearance of a perfect life.  But Felicity’s life and marriage are far from perfect.

Initially I did not think I would enjoy this book (near the beginning there seemed to be a lot of description about the bridge and how it was built, which I found slightly tedious).  However, I found myself being drawn in by the characters and setting.  The book was incredibly evocative and I really felt able to imagine life in Karakarook, with the heat, the dust and flies, and the residents who knew everything about each others lives.  There are some genuinely funny moments as incidental parts of the day are described, but the book was also very touching and moving.

Harley and Douglas were both likeable – they were brittle, unconfident and unsure about their place in their world.  They were very human with good intentions, but had very believable flaws and idiosyncrasies.  Felicity on the other hand was actually a very sad character.  It was clear that while she was eager to show outward perfection, she actually felt that her life was very empty – her looks were so important to her because they were all she felt she had.  Her perfectly decent husband and child don’t being her any contentment (at one stage she describes forgetting to pick her child up from school because she was giving herself a face pack), and so she seeks reassurance and satisfaction in other areas.  She was not an immediately pleasant character, but her sadness was very apparent.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this story, and would certainly search out more books by this author.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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