Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Idea of Perfection” as Want to Read:
The Idea of Perfection
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Idea of Perfection

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  1,851 ratings  ·  181 reviews
'Grenville makes awkward atmospheres and fumbling encounters wonderfully vivid. Read it and cringe' The Times The Idea of Perfection is a funny and touching romance between two people who've given up on love. Set in the eccentric little backwater of Karakarook, New South Wales, pop. 1374, it tells the story of Douglas Cheeseman, a gawky engineer with jug-handle ears, and H ...more
Kindle Edition, 416 pages
Published by Picador (first published June 9th 2001)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Idea of Perfection, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Idea of Perfection

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
The Idea of Perfection is the fifth novel by Australian author, Kate Grenville. Set in the dying country town of Karakarook, NSW, pop.1374, the story revolves around the Bent Bridge: the Heritage mob (Karakarook Heritage Museum Committee) believes it can attract tourists; the Shire councillors want to tear this now-dangerous construction down. Enter divorcee Douglas Cheeseman, engineer from the Lands Office, in town to tear down the old bridge and start construction of the replacement. A self-co ...more
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.

Ron Charles
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.

This 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.
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 antique 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 br ...more
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 o ...more
Jan 23, 2012 S'hi rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Writers,
Kate Grenville demonstrates here her great subtlety of observation and influence as a writer. From the smallest of towns she selects a few characters for their very ordinariness, and gradually displays their deep commitment to their own individual and internal values. Through the introduction of a couple of out-of-towners, who are there by invitation of the locals, she displays how what is lacking in the big city for these individuals can be discovered by the freeing up of space to be able to ap ...more
Shonna Froebel
On a recent visit to B.C. a very knowledgeable clerk in Tanner's recommended a couple of books to me. We'd had a short yet interesting conversation and I bought two books on her recommendation. This is one of them.
I'd read Kate Grenville before, but liked this one even better than the other I'd read.
Set in the little town of Karakarook, New South Wales, this follows three characters: two visitors and one who lives there.
Douglas Cheeseman is an unprepossessing middle-aged man who is in town as th
My second book by this author and I am just as impressed by her beautiful language as I was in the first. Her books are not page turners, but meant to be read slowly and attention paid to the turn of phrase. This takes place in a very small town in Australia (with a population of around 1350) so the people may seem boring to those of us living in a city. However, I was very taken with their simple lives and how happy they seemed.

Ms. Grenville again makes you actually feel the heat, the dryness,
The Idea of Perfection is the fifth novel by Australian author, Kate Grenville. Set in the dying country town of Karakarook, NSW, pop.1374, the story revolves around the Bent Bridge: the Heritage mob (Karakarook Heritage Museum Committee) believes it can attract tourists; the Shire councillors want to tear this now-dangerous construction down. Enter divorcee Douglas Cheeseman, engineer from the Lands Office, in town to tear down the old bridge and start construction of the replacement. A self-co ...more
In a few words: an old bridge, a smalltown outback community and lots of social awkwardness.

A slower burner of a book. It took about half way through to get going in terms of the plot, but events were less important in my enjoyment than the development of the characters and the slow immersion into the life of the Australian outback town in which the book was set. the characters were very well drawn, making it almost uncomfortable reading as their self-consciousness and inner turmoils were slowly
Cy Garcia
This was actually my mom's copy but she complained about the font every time she tried reading it so I did what any reasonable daughter ought to do: I stole it. Or maybe borrowed (with no intention of returning it-- as of now).

Anyway, since this book was originally "meant" for women her age, I don't know what to expect after I picked it up from her shelf. The title itself was interesting enough. But the story. Well, that's a different topic.

The book was basically about these two socially-awkward
Boy this book was pretty boring. Extremely well written but just goes to show that little something missing ie. a spark of interest means the world.
Mediocre characterisation meant that the main characters were a mystery for most of the book. The only interesting tid bit in the whole novel was completely overshadowed by the terrible culture stereotype. I couldn't even get a grasp of what it was Ms Savage did exactly? Was she an extraordinary craftswoman? No just sewed 'little bits' of fabric toge
My overall impression of this book is that Kate Grenville has mastered the art of making the boring interesting. It tells the story of two socially awkward, middle-aged, unattractive people who find themselves in an unprepossessing outback town. Neither the people, the town or the stray dog have much going for them, but with some good, humorous, descriptive writing, the author made me want to read about them.
Here is a first sight of the town:
'Over the top of the corrugated roof next door, he cou
Laura Dickinson
This book follows the life of a plain woman in small town Australia and her burgeoning 'romance' with an equally plain, run-of-the-mill man.
It sounds very unlikely as a good read, but it really is! It isn't one of those books that you immediately love and can't put down, but it grows on you until you realise you need to finish it!

I liked:
the detail of small town Australia
the way in which the description of the climate, weather, surroundings etc really come to life.
linked to the previous point,
Socrates said "An unexamined life is not worth living." But, I think there can be two much examination. The two main characters in this novel examine and question and rethink every movement, expression, and comment they make before they are finished making it. So much so that they are practically paralyzed into inaction. They refuse to believe that their flawed appearances and characters can be attractive to anyone, professionally, socially or romantically. Despite this, they revel in making ske ...more
Carinya Kappler
The word that best describes Kate Grenville’s characters for me in this book is “endearing”.
Her story is set is a small rural town called Karakarook. Sadly the economic woes that are common to most small farming towns are making the future of Karakarook very dismal. Even the expert advice sought in desperation from the “big city” experts comes in the form of a big-eared tongue tied engineer with vertigo and a large shapeless woman claiming to represent the historical and creative arts sectors. B

This novel was for me an introduction to the writing of Australian writer Kate Grenville. It was passed on to me by an Australian Bookcrossing friend, while she was visiting Italy last year and I have been looking forward to reading it since then. I am really glad that she warned me that the characters in this novel are not typical Australians, as they are certainly a strange collection of eccentrics!

In my opinion it took the first two thirds of the book f
G.S. Johnston
Wow - this was the first novel I've read by Grenville (yeah - I know - hand in Australian citizenship card) and it was a great surprise. I kept thinking, this is very slow and not much is happening but I also kept on wanting to go back to the novel and keep reading. Whilst plot is virtually erased, it's replaced by so much else. The shifting points of view do help to keep the reader moving as without them the novel would bog down.

So many authors think they can write like this and fail as they d
In order for the plot of this plodding book to work, Harley must be a sympathetic character. She's not. I also found it hard to believe that a museum in Sydney would allow one of its staff to remain in a backwater for weeks to carry out a job that would have taken a couple of days at most. Felicity and Freddy offer some helpful comic relief, but it wasn't enough to sustain this pointless and overpraised trudge through the outback. The author has chosen to dispense with quotation marks in dialogu ...more
The writing of this book somehow reflects the detail in which you look at a place or a person or consider your own echo in the Australian outback. I loved it and the internal monologue of the characters
Steve Are
this is one of those rarer books where it mattered less the plot, subplot, setting, etc. as the writing itself provided the gems necessary to keep reading. there were perhaps an overabundance of similes but each was apt so were forgiven. beyond that, the theme seemed to be that of our imperfections, how we're led to diminish ourselves or disqualify ourselves from opportunities that arise due to other, earlier failures and having lived their aftermaths. as well, the false pride we sometimes have ...more
This book, along with Stoner, by john Williams, is probably the best book I have read in 10+ years. I love Grenville's title and her weaving of three individuals working to grow beyond their need for perfection as they visit a small Australian town. The insights and introspection are beautiful, plain and honest, giving you wonderful nuggets of language that Grenville either collected for many years, or is able to just stitch into the dialogue as she thinks of them. At the end of the book, all th ...more
Mike Cuthbert
I had not read any Australian fiction for some time and dipped back into it with the Orange Prize winner for 2001, Kate Grenville’s “Idea of Perfection.” It is the kind of Australian novel that usually does not appeal to me: pastoral, calm, set in a small country town (in this case Karakarook) with small, average people doing mostly average things. But Karakarook is rife with passion. Well, enough passion for two couples at least. Harley Savage is a rather Amazonian Sydney native who comes to to ...more
Sara Foley
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 quilts metaphor. Beautiful! Bravo!
I loved this book. Kate Grenville is a master student of humanity. I so enjoyed here description of the three main characters in their high level of self consciousness - the one who was so concerned with her physical perfection, the other two who were so concerned with their imperfections. The richness of the characters and of the town was so palpable, down to the upside down letter outside The Caledonina. A masterpiece of fiction.
The Idea of Perfection didn't work for me.

I love Kate Grenville and thoroughly enjoyed The Secret River, I just couldn't connect to this novel. At times it was difficult to ascertain who was speaking due to the exclusion of quotation marks.

The characters in general are very awkward (to the point that it is cringe-worthy) and not particularly believable. The whole setting of Karakarook just depressed me.

I wouldn't recommend The Idea of Perfection. That being said, if you have read it (and didn't
Blue Mountains Library
This was published (1999) about 6 years before Grenville’s The Secret River, and I’m re-reading it, for its humourous take on country Australia, its satirical portraits of the residents of Karakarook, its lampooning of pretension. Go, Kate.

A past winner of the prestigious Orange Prize literary award, The Idea of Perfection didn't blow my socks off. It was an ok read and certainly conjured up a sun baked country town in the Australian outback.
Mandy Setterfield
Lovely story. Very atmospheric, dry,dusty,hot. Interesting characters, amusing at times, but emotionally very real. Loved it.
Nancy Dardarian
Slow character development, such interesting people in a tiny Australian town. Fabulous book.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • When I Lived in Modern Times
  • A Spell of Winter
  • A Crime in the Neighborhood
  • Journey to the Stone Country
  • Sorry
  • Eucalyptus
  • It's Raining in Mango
  • The Road Home
  • That Deadman Dance
  • That Eye, the Sky
  • Carpentaria
  • Tirra Lirra by the River
  • The Spare Room
  • Property
  • Larry's Party
  • The Good Parents
  • A Child's Book of True Crime
  • Grand Days
Kate Grenville is one of Australia's best-known authors. She's published eight books of fiction and four books about the writing process. Her best-known works are the international best-seller The Secret River, The Idea of Perfection, The Lieutenant and Lilian's Story (details about all Kate Grenville's books are elsewhere on this site). Her novels have won many awards both in Australia and the UK ...more
More about Kate Grenville...
The Secret River The Lieutenant Sarah Thornhill Lilian's Story Dark Places

Share This Book

“It was a long time since whe's been young and it was unlikely that she'd ever been lovely. She stood like a man, square-on. Her breasts pushed out the old tee-shirt, but it was clear from the way she stood that she'd forgotten about breasts being sexy. Her breasts made bulges in her shirt, the same way her knees made bulges in her black track pants, that was all.” 1 likes
“All this, grassy paddock, cows, trees - he had thought it was Nature. But now he could see that that was ignorance, or lack of imagination. It was not Nature. It was actually property. 0 likes
More quotes…