Book Review: Perfect by Rachel Joyce

Perfect by Rachel JoyceThis book is from the same author as The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. I loved that book. This book is rather different but also a very good read.

Perfect: What it is about

What the publishers say: “In 1972, two seconds were added to time. It was in order to balance clock time with the movement of the earth. Byron Hemming knew this because James Lowe had told him and James was the cleverest boy at school. But how could time change? The steady movement of hands around a clock was 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 right?

Perfect: What I thought

Byron is 11 years old in 1972 when something terrible happens: his mother makes a mistake without realising. Should he tell her? It’s better for her not to know, but really, they should investigate the consequences of her mistake. Byron worries about this for a long time.

The mistake evolves to some rather strange developments, totally against what Byron’s father would want, if he heard of it. He’s not at home very often, but he is in control of what happens in the household and Byron’s mother has to report to him every night (by phone). Eventually, everything changes for the family. If only Byron hadn’t known about the 2 seconds that were added to time. His friend James helps him to sort out the mess in his own precocious pre-teenage way.

The story of Byron is alternated with the story of 55-year old Jim in the current time. He’s got OCD and is in a bad state. He just about keeps on to his very simple job while he’s obviously very intelligent. He looks back on the summer in which Byron’s mother made her mistake and suspects his condition is related to the events that happened at the time.

I found the transition from an 11 year old boy in 1972 to a 55 year old man in the current time a bit difficult. They didn’t seem to have anything in common (except for the summer of 1972) and the stories developed almost independently of each other. But of course, in the end they do come together in an unexpected way.

There was a lot to love about the book, too: the strict regime of Byron’s father, the schemes of James to help Byron’s mother’s situation (through Byron), Jim’s situation as a middle-aged man and his possible love affair.

It’s very different from Harold Fry but another very good book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Number of pages: 368

First published: 2013

I got this: from the publishers via Netgalley (ebook)

Genre: contemporary fiction


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

12 Responses to Book Review: Perfect by Rachel Joyce

  1. Wendy says:

    Wow, this sounds like a really good story. I’m definitely adding this to my Goodreads to-read list 😉

  2. I loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage. Even though this sort of contemporary fiction is not usually the thing I read, I’m going to have to read Perfect.

  3. Charlie says:

    I feel I’ve read about the 2 second premise before, either I’ve de ja vu or another book has done similar. It’s a scary idea – even if it’s understandable, 2 seconds sounds such a short amount of time to affect things. Sounds a great book.

  4. bibliosue says:

    This sounds interesting, It looks like it was just released in the U.S.

  5. Isi says:

    You have me looking forward to knowing what happened in those 2 seconds!
    I will read it, for sure. I didn’t know that the author of Harld Fry had other books, but I still have to write Harold Fry 😉

  6. Diane says:

    I am listening to the audio version right now and although it’s a little difficult on audio, I an=m completely enthralled (as I was with Koch’s The Dinner). Nice review, so happy no spoilers.

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