Book Review – The idea of perfection by Kate Grenville

“The Idea of Perfection” by Kate Grenville – 4

This book lost a couple of points at the get go when I saw the absence of quotation marks on the dialogue. I think it is lazy and very confusing for the reader. Page 11 is good example. The blurb on the back cover indicated: “This is a funny and touching romance between two people who’ve given up on love”. However, more than half way through the book the story as advertised hadn’t even started. I realised I had been reading nothing more than in-depth character pieces and some amusing vignettes which could have easily stood alone as short stories. After the incident with the cows – very well written I thought – Harley and Douglas didn’t even meet again until Page 238. However, the date scene in the café is marvellous; Kate let us live the awkwardness they both suffered through.

But, over and above all that, I thought the ‘Coralie and Freddy’ subplot far more entertaining than the main story line. And it was brilliantly written; the gradual changing of Coralie’s internal dialogue, the denial of her real thoughts, her willingness to creep closer to the centre of the spider’s web, all the while remonstrating with ‘other’ herself; incredible writing.

It is a book I’m glad I read but I do see it as an exercise in how not to write a novel as concerns the treatment of the main story. Some of the description was a bit too much – okay it was well written – but I kept thinking, “Come on! What does this really have to do with the story? Do we need to know about this?” And I can’t forgive the lack of quotation marks. I gave Kate’s “Sarah Thornhill” and “The Secret River” both a 6 but with this work I can’t go any higher than a four.

Steve Reilly