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The Idea of Perfection Paperback – 1999

3.3 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Paperback, 1999
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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Picador (1999)
  • ISBN-10: 0330361775
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330361774
  • ASIN: 0330362062
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13 x 3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
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Inside This Book

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First Sentence
IN HIS EX-WIFE'S clever decorating magazines Douglas Cheeseman had seen mattress ticking being amusing. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It is clear why Kate Grenville won the 2001 Orange Prize for this engaging and thoughtful book. Although billed as a romance, the first interest of the book is to elaborate very human, credible characters whose relationships establish a strong and mutually-supporting structure. It is less a romance and more an investigation of community and the meaning of individual perfection within a social context. Grenville captures the spirit of Australian rural life convincingly and laces it with a subtle wit. It is true that the tragedies that have befallen some characters are extreme, but such extreme deluges do happen and are instrumental in forming people's personalities. I would recommend this book to any reader.
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Format: Paperback
This is ostensibly a love story, with two professionals from the city forming an unlikely bond when they are thrown together in a small country town. However, the relationship between the two is only one of many in this well written book. The chapters alternate between the viewpoints of the main characters to develop a well-rounded portrait of all concerned.
Karakarook, like many small Australian country towns, has been left behind - they highway doesn't run through town anymore, the bank will soon close its branch, and any industries that supported the town have long gone. Many in the town are pinning their hopes on 'Heritage', which gives a reason for one half of the city partnership, Harley, to be there. She has come from Sydney to organise a museum. She also becomes involved in the fight over another heritage flash point - the old Bent Bridge.
Bent Bridge is the reason for the other city person to be in town. Douglas is the engineer tasked with organising the replacement of the bridge. Harley and Douglas have their stories told alternately with that of a third - Felicity, the flighty wife of the bank manager. All three are outsiders - not just in the sense that they have arrived in Karakarook from elsewhere, but they also don't quite belong in the society in which they live. Also, all three have been deeply marked by their backgrounds - Harley forever trying to live up to the expectations of her famous creative family; Douglas living in the shadow of a war hero father he never met; and Felicity trying to forget her humble background while clinging to youthful beauty. Grenville is a skilful enough writer to allude to the importance of these details, while not overburdening the reader with too much character history.
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Format: Hardcover
As an American who spent eight years living in Australia, I was blown away by how Grenville was able to capture the nuances of small town Australian life with an outsider's perspective. I enjoyed, as well, the fact that the heroes of her book, weren't beautiful and successful, but ordinary damaged people riddled with self-doubt. I was also impressed with Grenville's knowledge of engineering and quilt making. Moreoever, the book was certainly an entertaining and quick read.
However, there were certain aspects to the book that I found annoying - in particular her overuse of italics. Also, the plotline wasn't well developed. She sets us up for a big confrontation over the tearing down of a wooden bridge, but whimps out. She also didn't explore the growing rapport of the main characters in a way that convinced me that they could actually be falling in love. And the secondary plot line, about a bored, vain housewife and the butcher, while amusing, seemed kind of pointless. Having said that, there is no question that Grenville is brilliant at drawing vivid, dinstinctive characters.
I would recommend this book for anyone wishing to get an insight into small town Australian life.
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Format: Hardcover
Pitched as a love story set around the replacement of a country bridge, "The Idea of Perfection" turns out to be more a study of some amusingly imperfect characters. Harley Savage and Douglas Cheeseman are hilariously unlike your typical romantic leads: physically unattractive, professionally insecure, emotionally tortured. But Grenville's careful articulation of their social anxiety will have you smiling (or cringing) with recognition. (Her rendition of Australian male anxiety is particularly well observed.) For me, this felt more like a collection of fragments than a unified novel, mainly because there was too little focus on the particular plot line I was expecting - the construction of the bridge and the conflict this might create in the country town. But no matter. What this book gives us instead is a love story that depicts "romance" like it often really is - furtive, frightening and funny. Such frankness is rare, and very refreshing.
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