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The Idea of Perfection
Synopses & Reviews
Published to great acclaim in Britain, Kate Grenville's fifth novel, The Idea of Perfection, recently won the Orange Prize, Britain's most valuable literary award. Set in the eccentric little backwater of Karakarook, New South Wales, pop. 1374, it tells the story of Douglas Cheesman, a shy, gawky engineer with jug-handle ears, and Harley Savage, a large, rawboned, plain woman who is a part-time museum curator. Harley has come to Karakarook to help the town build a heritage museum; Douglas is there to pull down the quaint old Bent Bridge, and from day one, they're on a collision course. Both characters carry a hidden cargo of guilt along with the memories of failed marriages, but out of this unpromising conjunction of opposites, something unexpected happens: something even better than perfection.
Elegantly and compassionately told, The Idea of Perfection is reminiscent of the work of Carol Shields, Peter Carey, and J.M. Coetzee and shows Kate Grenville as "a writer of extraordinary talent" (The New York Times Book Review).
"The fifth novel by Australian author Grenville (Lilian's Story, Joan Makes History) won Britain's prestigious Orange Prize last year and, at its best, it's easy to see why. It is an oddly uneven book, however, sometimes dazzlingly lyrical, compassionate and smart, but occasionally arch and rather clumsy....These elements are only disappointing because the book, when on target, is so remarkably clear-sighted about, yet fond of, its quirky characters." Publishers Weekly
"If the Australian bush is a stark and unforgiving land, utterly devoid of delicacy or detail, then the emotional terrain of Grenville's characters lies in dramatic contrast to their surroundings....Grenville rivals Proulx in perfectly marrying people to place in a richly textured, warmly wry portrait of quixotic characters longing for acceptance." Carol Haggas, Booklist
"[A]n effective blend of humor, sensuality, and pathos. She nicely contrasts urban and rural living and shows how even those who work to preserve the historical past may themselves remain haunted by their own personal histories....a satisfying and memorable read." Maureen Neville, Trenton P.L., NJ , Library Journal
Douglas Cheesman is 55 years old, and the kind of man you would definitely not look at twice. But he can tell you more than you'll ever want to know about bridges. Harley Savage, big and plain, is a thrice-married woman who freely admits that she bores easily. And Yuribee, a little rural town in NSW that used to think it had a big future, is a place desperately in need of Cultural Heritage.
To attract much-needed tourist dollars, Yuribee must find some worthy pieces for its Heritage Museum - items just a little more inspired than crocheted toilet roll holders. The townspeople seem to think that rickety old Bent Bridge is part of this Cultural Heritage. But Douglas Cheesman is in Yuribee to tear it down, and it seems things are about to get complicated.
Winner of the 2001 Orange Prize for Fiction.
About the Author
Kate Grenville was born in Sydney in 1950 and is one of Australia's best known writers. Her novels include Lilian's Story, (winner of the prestigious Australian/Vogel Literary Award), Albion's Story, Joan Makes History, and Dreamhouse.
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