The Idea of Perfection
"Well, he said, and laughed a meaningless laugh. A moment extended itself into awkwardness. Well, he said again, and she said it too at the same moment. Their voices sounded loud together under the awning. She felt as if the whole of Karakarook, behind its windows, must be watching this event that had burst into their silent afternoon: two bodies hitting together, two people standing apologising.
"Douglas Cheeseman is the kind of divorced middle-aged man you'd never glance at twice, although he can tell you more than you'd ever want to know about bridges. Harley Savage, big, plain, and uncompromising, knows she's a danger to herself and anyone else who tries to get close. Why else would she have gone through three husbands? And for Karakarook, a dying country town that used to think it had a big future, tourists are its last desparate hope.
"The Bent bridge is what brings them all together. Some of the townspeople think the tourists will love it, and Harley agrees. But Douglas Cheeseman is in Karakarook to tear it down, and well, it seems that things are about to become complicated."
"It's an amusing and moving story of unlikely love, but one could read it just to marvel at Grenville's astounding writing. Whether probing her eccentric characters' doubts and anxieties or describing the hot, desolate landscape of the bush or capturing the way its inhabitants talk and think, her sentences — deceptively casual in their diction and rhythm — peg every moment with exquisite and surprising aptness." - Christina Schwarz, Powell's Books
"The Idea of Perfection is a gentler, funnier, more optimistic book than Grenville's earlier works, much less concerned with the evil machinations of patriarchy. It is, too, her least subversive book...I've read all Grenville's novels and have heard her speak on several occasions. I'm always touched by her seeming artlessness, warmth, and generosity of spirit, as I am in awe, too, of her formidable gift with words, her sharp insights and her truly scintillating sense of humour. The Idea of Perfection showcases all these qualities. This book is moving, it is hilarious, it is absolutely beautifully written. It is, quite simply, the embodiment of “my idea of perfection”. - Lesley Walter, Australian Women's Book Review
In his ex-wife's clever decorating magazines Douglas Cheeseman had seen mattress ticking being amusing. Marjorie had explained that it was amusing to use mattress ticking for curtains the same way that it was amusing to use an old treadle Singer as a table for your maidenhair ferns. But he did not think the amusing aspect of mattress ticking being used as a curtain had made it as far as the Caledonian Hotel in Karakarook, NSW, pop 1374. He could feel the cold dust in the fabric as he held it back to look out the window.
Over the top of the corrugated iron roof next door, he could see nearly all of Karakarook. It looked as if it had just slid down into the bottom of the valley, either side of the river, and stayed there. Where the houses finished straggling up the sides of the hills there were bald curves of paddocks and, further up, the hilltops were dark with bush. Above that was the huge pale sky, bleached with the midday heat.
From the window he could see part of Parnassus Road, as wide and empty as an airport runway, lying as if stunned under the afternoon sun. Along the strip of shops a few cars were parked diagonally into the gutters like tadpoles nosing up to a rock. A dog lay stretched out lifeless across the door of a closed-up shop. The awnings over the shops made jagged blocks of black shadow and the great radiance of the sun pressed down out of the sky.
From the Picador paperback edition, 1999.
This novel won the 2001 Orange Prize.
This page and its contents are copyright © 2004 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.Return to Kate Grenville page.
Last modified: December 31, 2004.