The Idea of Perfection


The Idea of Perfection is another book I’ve read for the Book Awards Reading Challenge. Sadly, it’s another award winning book that I just couldn’t like. This novel by Kate Grenville, an Australian writer, won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2001. The truly curious thing is that same year, Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin was shortlisted for the same prize. I had read that long before I started this blog, and it is a far superior novel.

This book hosts the most unlikely cast of characters one could imagine. The principle characters are supposed to be Harley Savage and Douglas Cheeseman. They are strangers on temporary work assignments in the fictional town of Karakarook, New South Wales. Harley is in town to help build a “heritage museum”. She is a textiles expert from a museum in Sydney. Douglas is an engineer, who has been sent to supervise the destruction of an old, worn-out bridge, and the construction of its replacement. They are both incredibly self-involved. They question every move and conversation-who has time for that?

A portion of the book is devoted to the story of Felicity Porcelline, the prim wife of the bank manager. In fact, she seems to be more of a main character than Harley or Douglas. Far too much of the book is focused on Felicity fantasizing about the town’s Chinese butcher/photographer, Alfred Chang. Talk about an unlikely character.

I really had to force myself to read this book all the way through. Is it too much to ask that a book be well-written and have interesting characters that I could enjoy reading about?


Published in hardcover-Viking Penguin 2002
Softcover edition-Penguin 2003

The Idea of Perfection


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