ePUB Kate Grenville ¶ ¶ The Idea of Perfection MOBI ð The Idea MOBI :¼

Harley Savage is a plain woman a part time museum curator and uilting expert with three failed marriages and a heart condition Douglas Cheeseman is a shy gawky engineer with jug handle ears one marriage gone sour and a crippling lack of physical courage They meet in the little Australian town of Karakarook where Harley has arrived to help the town build a heritage museum and Douglas to demolish the uaint old Bent Bridge From the beginning they are on a collision course until the unexpected sets them both free Elegantly and compassionately told The Idea of Perfection is reminiscent of the work of Carol Shields and Annie Proulx and reveals Kate Grenville as a writer of extraordinary talent The New York Times Book Review

10 thoughts on “The Idea of Perfection

  1. says:

    Readers who are particularly successful and good looking please skip to the next page Kate Grenville has written a book for the rest of us Everyone who's ever returned from a great date to discover toilet paper trailing from their shoes will cling to The Idea of Perfection like an old friendThis Australian winner of Britain's Orange Prize tells the story of Douglas Cheeseman a chronically shy engineer and Harley Savage a museum curator who's been having a bad hair day since she was 12 They're both awkward middle aged people baffled by where to put their hands Douglas is so self conscious about the size of his ears that they turn red He'd grown a mustache as a kind of diversionary tactic Harley struggles to maintain a smile that doesn't highlight her fang like incisorsBoth come from families of famous people who put their own shortcomings in high relief They're mystified by the intricacies of small talk envying the pleasantries that others seem to have learned early in life He had been known to laugh long before the punch line out of sheer anxiety Harley aims for lively but comes off sounding accusatoryThey must get together of course but Grenville delays their courtship with exuisite timing Both arrive on the same week in Karakarook New South Wales a village evaporating into ghost town status You could not window shop convincingly in Karakarook Grenville writes unless you were in the market for dead flies Harley has come to help the remaining 1374 citizens build a heritage museum to attract tourists Douglas has been sent to demolish the town's only real attraction the dilapidated Bent Bridge They spot one another immediately they're often the only things moving on Main Street but both are determined not to increase their already high diet of embarrassmentThough she makes them the subject of great comedy Grenville regards these sweet losers with incredible patience Both have endured enough heartache to make them pessimistic about their romantic prospects Douglas has already bored a wife into divorce with his enthusiasm for concreteHarley meanwhile won't even acknowledge the mangy dog that follows her around town not Doug the other mangy dog Sometimes it was a little lonely she admits but it was safe A doctor has warned her to exercise her weak heart but she stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the obvious implications of that metaphor She's already run through three husbands and labors under the burden that she drove the last one to suicide She knows that she was not adorable She was not even a particularly nice person She was not generous or unselfish She was not a sunny soul She was not especially talented or creative except in a limited way She had certainly never been pretty much less beautifulGrenville winces and winks through her portrayal of these people Despite her dry sense of humor she demonstrates a teenager's sensibility for self consciousness an ear for every bungled introduction and an eye for every toppled chair Her hero and heroine stumble through a minefield of comic embarrassments that detonate with almost every step At their first meeting Doug finds himself attacked by a herd of cattle At their second meeting Harley vomits These lovers aren't so much star crossed as tar crossedWhile Doug plans to demolish the Bent Bridge and Harley plans to save it Grenville turns her witty eye to the tortured ruminations of Felicity Porcelline a satirical portrayal as pitch perfect as anything by Charles Dickens or Evelyn Waugh Mrs Porcelline lives in a world tightly strung along her regulations for proper skin care and housekeeping She rations the number of wrinkle forming smiles she allows herself each evening She fantasizes about eating off her spotless kitchen floorIn fact her fantasies are the only things she can't smooth and sterilize To her horror she's inexorably attracted to Mr Chang the inscrutable Chinese butcher who has the nerve to act just like a normal person as if he did not realize that being Chinese was unusual Terrified by their fascination for white women Mrs Porcelline worries that if you happened to find yourself with him in the dark for any reason you would never know he was Chinese Torn between her carefully covered racism and her ferociously repressed desire poor Mrs Porcelline is subject to a constant barrage of erotic assaults on her pristine world Each day's trip to the meat counter sometimes two unleashes a ravenous pack of Freudian slips and displaced anxietiesThe Idea of Perfection is perfectly conceived an irresistible comedy of manners that catches the agony of chronic awkwardness with great tenderness The Bent Bridge spans a treacherous gully in the heart but Grenville is a trustworthy engineer who understands the uirky geometry of lovehttpwwwcsmonitorcom20020418p1

  2. says:

    This book had lots of elements that I often don’t like and yetIt was uite slow paced but with a great turn of phrase I have recently whinged about several books just being too slow for me while I’m impatiently waiting for something to happen and this book should have made me feel like that And yetI hate it when authors don’t indicate speech using uotation marks Why do we have uotation marks if people aren’t going to use them? It wasn’t until page 62 I realised that there were no uotation marks for speech Anywhere in the book And yetI really enjoyed it It certainly wasn’t a book that I could tear through it needed a bit time The characters were well drawn from Douglas with his precise nature perfect for an engineer and poor relational skills to poor Felicity Porcelline with her superficiality and her OCD that meant everything needed to be just so but then caused her to struggle when things clashed “uilting had been good for uite a while She sometimes regretted all the fabrics She had them in clear plastic boxes The plains had been graded in colour from ROY to BIV and each box was labelled There was a section for Checks and one for Spots and another big one for Florals There had been a bit of a problem with fabrics that had both spots and checks or florals that were also stripes Would you call a checkerboard a Check or a Black and White? It had worried her until she had hit on another category Overlaps”There were so many lovely passages of description in the town the bush and the characters themselves I could see a lot of the bad parts of myself in Harley and Douglas Not so much Felicity who I felt was rather pathetic and who made me impatient The awkwardness of both Harley and Douglas around people not meaning to say some things in certain situations and yet those things are what come out of my mouth Although Harley is also a generous natured person than I can be at timesI’ve enjoyed several of Kate Grenville’s works now and am happy to see I still have a few to go

  3. says:

    I re read The Idea of Perfection because I remember absolutely loving this book Set in a small town in the Australian bush it’s an amusing story in an atmosphere of awkwardness of a romance of two people who have given up on love They learn that they have flaws and that perfection does not exist within our nature and only in our minds as an ideal where they uncover the truths already embedded in their minds

  4. says:

    It doesn’t matter whether you live in the fictional Karakarook NSW or Kirkcaldy Fife If you’re one of life’s awkward people you’ll recognise your self conscious self anywhere Harley Savage is outwardly confident inwardly a bag of nerves unsure of herself and of everyone else although she assumes that they’re good with people and she’s not I love how Grenville puts all the hackneyed phrases we live behind in italics to emphasise how hard we try to be what we think others expect us to be the title’s Idea of Perfection and how impossible it is for us all to behave like one generic mass of thoughts and emotions In the wonderfully repressed Felicity’s case she imposes these impossible standards on herself4 stars for a thoroughly enjoyable read about real human beings that made me laugh out loud often

  5. says:

    Two plain middle aged people come into the rural town of Karakarook in New South Wales around the same time Harley was working as a museum curator helping the townspeople set up a heritage museum Douglas an engineer had been assigned the job of tearing down an antiue wooden bridge and replacing it with a modern concrete version Both harboring personal problems and socially awkward they tiptoe around each other while an attraction develops An abandoned dog that adopts Harley helps break down the defenses that Harley has put up against getting close to anyoneKarakarook has a uirky group of townspeople Felicity who does not live up to her name is the most memorable as she spends a good part of her day applying facial masues and cucumbers She limits her smiles since they cause wrinkles While Felicity is physically beautiful she is probably the most emotionally imperfect person in townThis was a uiet but well written book with memorable characters The author's descriptions of New South Wales gave the reader a good sense of place Kate Grenville won the Orange Prize for Fiction for this book in 2001

  6. says:

    I spent most of the month not reading this book because of other events going on in my life but have now finished it I didn't enjoy it as much as some of Kate Grenville's other books but I did like the idea of writing about real people shy awkward not outwardly attractive but with good ualities buried inside them and waiting for the right person to discover and appreciate themI found Kate Grenville's use of italics a bit irritating but her descriptive writing is lovelyThe dawn air was cool and sweet Up in the sky a flock of birds heeled sideways The sun had not reached the earth yet but up there the wings were catching the first high rays They went on turning and wheeling catching and sending the light through the air the sky with the dipping and turning birds in it a great bowl of light above the waiting earthI love that image

  7. says:

    Perhaps it was the sound of this book that I liked so well for undoubtedly it was the language that resonated in these descriptions of people and the bush I liked too the story of a fabric artist finding inspiration in a bridge an engineer seeing beauty in the spaces between things I liked the idea that men and women can still find the possibility of love in unlikely places even as they age though it seems perhaps too much fiction to think that we would expose ourselves The performance of the work by Odette Joannidis added immeasureably to my pleasure because her Australian voices and bird calls added up to fabulous storytelling Australians know Kate Grenville as national treasure and I wish she were heralded in the United States

  8. says:

    This book is fabulous As a reader I loved the story and her descriptions of the characters and small town As a writer I was wowed by her use of language her observation of the tiniest things and the way she wrote about some of the very same themes that I write about living in country towns and the alternating feelings of connection and claustrophobia and the idea of life as shades of dark and light beautifully illustrated by the uilts metaphor Beautiful Bravo

  9. says:

    Kate Grenville has made a significant contribution to Australian literature throughout her writing career Having experienced the uality of her work in the past I really expected to enjoy this book The premise around which the story develops is one that provoked interest and the writing itself is rich with description As much as I appreciated the superior skill with which Grenville draws out the nuances of each scene and character at times the pace of the developing story suffered for the abundance of descriptive text I also found the focus on the conflict surrounding the bent bridge really only came into its own late in the story and even then it only generated brief confrontation which was somewhat an anti climax Even so the story continues towards an appropriately satisfying conclusionOne element that was not only unsatisfactory but perplexing was the affair between the butcher and the banker’s wife At first this was imagined and later realised in a rather bizarre fashion but I persisted certain the relevance of this inclusion would become clear as the story neared its climax I can identify the concept in its relation to the ‘idea of perfection’ theme and the notion of every small town having its secrets but not only did this sub plot remain largely unrelated to the main story it never really intersected beyond the slightest overlap in the final chapters This saw me uestioning the relevance of its inclusionAs such I’ve found myself conflicted over the rating to attribute this work Yes the writing is skilful and the descriptions clever I also appreciated the bringing together of Harley and Douglas two unlikely but ordinary middle aged people grappling with self doubt from the weight of life and broken relationships of the past—and Grenville does this well For the reasons detailed above I’m going to sit on three and half stars but don’t let this deter you from appreciating the uality aspects of Grenville’s writing It’s worth experiencing

  10. says:

    Still an all time favourite after being read many timesI understand that Kate Grenville was encouraged to write something 'lighter' after the very dark novels Lilian's Story and Dark Places Since this was written light and dark have continued to be strong themes in her writing Harley Savage comes to the rural town of Karakarook to help the locals establish a heritage museum But what the locals see as heritage differs from what Harley sees and wants She is after the 'old stuff that most people throw out' She herself is a uilt maker her patterns are original and for the locals who value traditional designs as eccentric as Harley herself I loved the way Harley values uilts that actually need some imperfection to be original and meaningful The uilt she makes is a combination of lights and darks reflecting the necessarily happy and unhappy aspects of human life She deliberately makes her seams not align perfectly Another imperfection that the locals think needs fixing is the 'bent bridge' a wooden structure damaged by past floods Douglas Cheeseman arrives in Karakarook to supervise the building of a new concrete bridge but comes to see that there may be ways to retain the old bridge imperfect as it isAnother way that Grenville plays with the 'idea of perfection' is through the character of Felicity Porcelline house proud and personally a perfectionist But unseen desires lie repressed behind Felicity's perfect image The stories of these characters play out in predictable and unpredictable ways Grenville uses humour with a cruel edge sometimes but also with an underlying affection for her characters and for human weaknesses in general The book's epitaph has the first and last say the uote Leonardo Da Vinci uote An arch is two weaknesses which together make a strength A treasure of a novel