Only when the clock stops does time come to life
Summer, 1972: In the claustrophobic heat, eleven-year-old Byron and his friend begin ‘Operation Perfect’, a hapless mission to rescue Byron’s mother from impending crisis.
Winter, present day: As frost creeps across the moor, Jim cleans tables in the local café, a solitary figure struggling with OCD. His job is a relief from the rituals that govern his nights.
Little would seem to connect them except that two seconds can change everything.
And if your world can be shattered in an instant, can time also put it right?
This is a story of details; of the few seconds which can alter life and the routines which keep us sane. The hot summer of 1972 is vividly recreated at Cranham House, a desirable Georgian home standing alone on the moor. In a house where, “the air was thick with Vim and Pledge polish,” Diana maintains an immaculate life for Byron & his young sister while her husband works away from home all week. Each morning after a healthy breakfast they get into the new Jaguar driving Byron to Winston House private school in his smart, neatly pressed uniform, but on the day when two seconds are removed from time, everything changes.
Byron’s friend James is full of clever ideas and he also has a crush on Diana. “Her eyes were bright, her skirt pressed, her hair blow-dried,” and she was naturally kind. When her world starts to fall apart the 2 boys do their best to help her.
In parallel chapters we meet Jim in the present day, living in a campervan on the edge of a new housing estate and working in a supermarket café. As a result of his stay in Besley Hill, “where the mad people lived,” he has a stammer and has difficulty interacting with people. But he is finding it difficult to ignore the new cook Eileen, a large lady with titian hair and her laugh has, “something so chaotic about the noise, so joyous and unequivocal.”
And it is chaos which causes the major events in this novel. It is a fascinating tale of appearances, mistakes and human relationships. There is mystery as to who Jim is and what has happened to him and what Diana’s background was before she met her husband. Despite the slow pace I found it compulsive reading.
Perfect on Amazon UK
Rachel Joyce is the author of the Sunday Times and international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Perfect, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, and a collection of interlinked short stories, A Snow Garden & Other Stories. Her work has been translated into thirty-six languages.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book prize and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Rachel was awarded the Specsavers National Book Awards ‘New Writer of the Year’ in December 2012 and shortlisted for the ‘UK Author of the Year’ 2014.
Rachel has also written over twenty original afternoon plays and adaptations of the classics for BBC Radio 4, including all the Bronte novels. She moved to writing after a long career as an actor, performing leading roles for the RSC, the National Theatre and Cheek by Jowl.