The novel is set in Karakarook, a fictional town in New South Wales no longer on the main road. It focuses on two visitors with contrary intentions. Harley Savage, a part-time museum curator come to help the town maintain their heritage, and Douglas Cheeseman, an engineer involved in rebuilding an old bridge that has seen better days.
The novel seems to always battle with a desire for a perfection that is never really present. On the one hand, this plays out as something of a comedy. Kate Grenville has described the book as ‘a heart-warming old-fashioned love story’. Although this might be the case, I think what makes this novel is that there is also always something beneath the surface.
After enough years, the look you put on your face to hide behind became the shape of the person you were
For me, this is epitomised by the discussion of failed relationships, to the point of Harley Savage’s last husband committing suicide.
I think that this contrast between the comedic and the serious is what allows for these investigations.
She never thought about being Asian when he took his clothes off.
I like how Ron Charles captures it:
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 friend.
“The Idea of Perfection” is perfectly conceived, an irresistible comedy of manners that catches the agony of chronic awkwardness with great tenderness.
Source: The awkward bridge from loneliness to romance by Ron Charles