Perfect prompted opinions of likeability almost from one end of the spectrum to the other, with some members really enjoying the book, to one who was unable to get past the first few pages, despite a number of attempts.
There was mixed opinion regarding whether Perfect was an easy read, and, unsurprisingly, those who found it easy to read also enjoyed it, generally. One member felt the jumping between previous and current time with each chapter made the book disjointed and difficult to follow. It was mostly considered a ‘feminine’ book; written by a woman, principally for women.
Given the strong significance of mental health throughout the book, this was discussed quite at length, with an interesting outcome that some readers found the characters ‘fascinating’, whilst others simply did not like the characters at all (which mostly corresponded with whether they had enjoyed the book or not). It was generally, but not entirely, felt that the writing was quite a good representation of childhood mental illness. Upon deliberating this topic further, it was suggested eventually that in fact perhaps every one of the book’s personalities suffered with mental ailment of some kind, however small, or seemingly hidden. Certainly each personality seemed to have their flaw/s. For example, Byron’s father was unable (and/or unwilling?) to form an appropriate relationship with his wife and children. And yet he clearly wanted them to reflect an outward ‘appearance’ that he felt was suitable – not least by buying the status symbol car for his wife. In terms of our individual interpretations of possible mental health failings within the characters, one member read the story to mean that Diana’s drowning had been accidental, but subsequently pondered the idea that suicide might have seemed more likely. Upon discussion at the Book Club meeting, it would seem that the majority of the Book Club members immediately interpreted the event as suicide, given both the way it was written, and Diana’s state of mind.
Perhaps it is a mark of Rachel Joyce’s writing that most of us did not guess the Jim/Byron twist towards the end of the book, although one member did have suspicions.
The book also prompted discussion about class, how that impacted the characters and their lives (significantly, we felt), and we talked about whether there was any similarity nowadays to the lives of the people portrayed as set in the 70s.
Whilst it is fair to say that none of the Book Club members felt Perfect was a great literary work of art, it did provoke significant discussion on some of life’s delicacies, perhaps suggesting that the writing was of a sufficient quality in order to achieve this outcome.