‘It was all because of a small slip in time, the whole story,’ we’re told at the beginning of Perfect, the engaging follow-up to Rachel Joyce’s quirky bestselling debut, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. In 1972, Byron Hemming, an imaginative 11-year-old, worries when his clever best friend, James, informs him that two seconds are being added to the clock because recorded time is out of kilter with the natural movement of the earth. It could, Byron thinks, wreck everything. Byron’s family life in an isolated Georgian house on the wild idyll of Cranham Moor is, on the surface, 1970s picture perfect. He and his sister, Lucy, attend a private school in the nearby town. His mother, Diana, in her pointy heels and pencil skirt, is a wonderful evocation of a Stepford wife, driving a shiny new Jag, pasting articles from Family Circle in her notebook and keeping the house spotless for Seymour, her domineering banker husband, to come home to at weekends.
There’s a brittleness to all this perfection, however, and anxious young Byron is right to fear that his adored mother is about to disappear. On the drive to school one morning, Diana breaks Seymour’s rule and takes a short cut through the council estate. Byron, convinced the ‘small slip in