The Idea of Perfection
by Kate Grenville
$19.99 Harper pub
This is not a new novel but one that presented itself to me while I was searching for something different. The Idea of Perfection, won the Orange Prize for fiction, and it is a treat to read.
If you are a little tired of the predictable lusty romps that pass as “hot reads” maybe you’ll enjoy this charming story.
This book is set in the town of Karakarook, New South Wales, (pop 1774). The town is hot and flyblown and the wide and dusty front street, Parnassus Road shows that in times past the town had plans to be big and bustling.
The Cobwebbe Crafte Shoppe features part of a sign left over from Christmas, which says, Merry Xmas Peace on Ear.
There is a General Store and Mini Mart and Alfred Chang Superior Meats and the Caledonian Hotel, where Douglas Cheeseman is staying, in Room 8.
He is their only guest.
Doug Cheeseman is an Engineer sent to Karakarook to build a bridge to replace the hundred year old one known as Bent Bridge. He is a shy and homely man, a cracker-jack engineer with few social graces.
The bridge was not always bent.
A violent storm beat against the bridge but instead of giving way, the bridge bent, and if that isn’t a tourist attraction then what is? So the Heritage people want it saved and while they’re at it, they will open a Heritage Museum to show off the artifacts of their past.
The town is divided, of course. There are those who call the Heritage people, “the compost and earth toilet bunch.” Their answer is a cement bridge.
Harley Savage is a, “rawboned plain person, tall and unlikely with a ragged haircut and white tee-shirt coming unstitched along the shoulder.”
She has been sent out from Sydney by the “Applied Arts Museum,” to help the town of Karakarook get the Heritage Museum up and rolling.
The minute she is in town she is adopted by a friendly dog.
Harley knows that dogs mean “relationship” and she’s not having any.
Dogs, of this type, can’t imagine you don’t want them around, so he stays close.
That these two unattractive people will meet is inevitable.
It’s improbable that they will have a future together, after all she has a chip on her shoulder and a sad history, and he wouldn’t, as they say, say boo to a goose.
The town is like every small town you ever left; there are characters behind every light post. Any kind of News will be passed on. And speaking of that, have you noticed that Felicity, the wife of the Bank Manager spends a lot of time at Alfred Chang’s Superior Meat Shop?
It is a pleasure to read this book of small town people surviving together hopefully. They have opinions and sign petitions, and keep an eye out for news.
Two new characters in town will keep them very busy.
Peggy Freeman is a freelance writer living in Red Deer.