Tuesday, January 21, 2014

8 Heart Review: Perfect by Rachel Joyce and Giveaway!

Perfect
Rachel Joyce
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Page Count: 400

Release Date: January 14th 2014
Publisher: Random House
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Random House and TLC!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥
A spellbinding novel that will resonate with readers of Mark Haddon, Louise Erdrich, and John Irving, Perfect tells the story of a young boy who is thrown into the murky, difficult realities of the adult world with far-reaching consequences.

Byron Hemmings wakes to a morning that looks like any other: his school uniform draped over his wooden desk chair, his sister arguing over the breakfast cereal, the click of his mother’s heels as she crosses the kitchen. But when the three of them leave home, driving into a dense summer fog, the morning takes an unmistakable turn. In one terrible moment, something happens, something completely unexpected and at odds with life as Byron understands it. While his mother seems not to have noticed, eleven-year-old Byron understands that from now on nothing can be the same. What happened and who is to blame? Over the days and weeks that follow, Byron’s perfect world is shattered. Unable to trust his parents, he confides in his best friend, James, and together they concoct a plan...

As she did in her debut, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce has imagined bewitching characters who find their ordinary lives unexpectedly thrown into chaos, who learn that there are times when children must become parents to their parents, and who discover that in confronting the hard truths about their pasts, they will forge unexpected relationships that have profound and surprising impacts. Brimming with love, forgiveness, and redemption, Perfect will cement Rachel Joyce’s reputation as one of fiction’s brightest talents.

[James] closed his eyes and his mouth began to move. Byron waited patiently, knowing that his friend was forming an idea. They had to think in a scientific way, James said slowly. They must be very logical and precise. "In order to save your mother," he said, "we must form a plan of action."
Byron could have hugged him, apart from the fact they were boys from Winston House. He knew everything would be all right now that his friend was involved.
"Why are you doing that funny face?" said James.
"I am smiling at you," said Byron.

1970's England. Fancy jaguars parked in the garages of upperclass suburban homes. Mothers in dainty white gloves wiping the sugar off their children's mouths. Fathers returning on the weekends with their briefcases in one hand, while expecting a shot of scotch from the bottle in the cabinet, in the other. This is the scene in which the primary portion of Perfect is set.

Upon witnessing a terrible lapse of time and in awareness, Byron Hemmings is caught in between the worlds of childhood and adulthood, as he is reluctantly forced to make a choice: reveal this secret about his precious, faultless mother, Diana, or keep quiet in his own mind forever. When his genius friend, James, excitedly concocts a plan to fix this intangible error, Operation Perfect is born; as the judgment of two adolescent boys goes, the procedure will either go according to plan, just as imagined in their hands... or it will end it utter disaster.

Byron's balmy, yet increasingly paranoiac summer days, are interspersed with Jim's portion of the story, set in a bitter present-day winter. Jim is a middle-aged obsessive-compulsive, who lives in a van, who works as a busboy, and whose condition worsens when reminiscing about his past and his haunting experience at Besley Hill, the sanitarium he was shoved into as a teenager.

The two seemingly unrelated narratives catch up to each other in a collision of time; they swerve together and explode into one another in a fateful, alarming twist that will leave readers breathless. For the majority of the novel, however, the prose is—however flowery and fanciful—languidly, almost sluggishly, set. I found Joyce's writing enjoyable, but very thick and puzzling, especially in the first half. Almost Ian McEwan-esque, her prose isn't particularly difficult to get through, but at times it was just thoroughly boring, which is why it took me a while to finish.

In characterization, in plot, and in tone, however, Perfect is a masterpiece. Each of the characters, even the ones that only make small appearances, are so vivid and intimately portrayed. Readers will cherish the characters they are meant to like, and loathe the ones they are meant to dislike. The eerily calm but inherently alarming mood sets up a domestically freakish story; while plain and placid in technique and style, the undertones of Perfect not only illuminate upon values of mistakes, redemption, and the human condition, but also bewilder, perplex. This is definitely a book that makes you think hard.

Pros


Substantial, exquisite writing // Contains one of the most elegantly executed, shocking plot twists ever // Deeply meaningful // The way Byron's mind runs in fascinating // All the characters are fabulously depicted; I fell in love with the protagonists and hated the antagonists deeply

Cons


Very confusing at first // Moves extremely slowly, even in the end // I liked the prose but it was a little sludgy

Love

Besides, the big things in life do not present themselves as such. They come in quiet, ordinary moments—a phone call, a letter—they come when we are not looking, without clues, without warning, and that is why they floor us. And it can take a lifetime, a life of many years, to accept the incongruity of things: that a small moment can sit side by side with a big one, and become part of the same.

Verdict


The injustices of adulthood and the restrictive bindings of upperclass society are brought to light in Rachel Joyce's newest British novel. Byron Hemmings's brilliantly fleshed, intimately portrayed character will make you think twice about the role of children, the responsibility of—or vindication from—accidents, and the faults of trust—the faults of humanity. One young boy's naïveté and misplaced guilt, as well as his mother's faultless crime, ignite this slow deterioration of an outwardly immaculate, perfect household. With grand allusions to the philosophy of time and the significance of deep thinking, Perfect questions the disastrous consequences of our every choice Americanflag

8 hearts: An engaging read that will be worth your while; highly recommended (x)

Giveaway!


Like what you see? Books à la Mode is giving away one PRINT copy to one lucky reader! Woohoo! To enter this giveaway, all you have to do is tell me:
Why do you want to read this book? What makes it seem unique?

Don't forget to include your email address in your comment so I know who to contact when I randomly select winner. Don't make me track you down!!!!
Easy peasy, just one entry. Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Rachel and I really want to hear from you guys! :)
Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publisher—a huge thank you to Random House!
Giveaway ends February 5th at 11.59 PM (your time).

Open to US residents only. Sorry, rest of the world! Please check my sidebar at the top for a list of giveaways that are running internationally :) There are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!