This Perfect World – Suzanne Bugler

This is the story of two women, Laura and Heddy. They knew each other from their school days but theirs was not a friendship it was something much darker. But we only hear Laura’s story we never get to understand Heddy’s side of the story. We make assumptions from Laura about Heddy and her circumstances now.

Years later, Heddy’s mother contacts Laura and upsets her world when she asks Laura for help to get Heddy out of hospital where she has been admitted following a mental breakdown. Laura suddenly has all the old wounds of childhood opened back up and it starts to threaten the “powder puff world” she now exists in.

As the book progresses we go back to what happened as children, at the things Laura did that she thought nothing of and how Heddy took it. Laura was a bully and Heddy was her victim. If you ever witnessed bullying as a child or were either the bully or the victim then this will not make pleasant reading. But that is good; do children really know what they are doing? Can that be forgiven or does it become a distant memory. These were questions that I asked myself as I moved through the book.

Not at any point did I feel sorry for Laura, in fact I despised her. I despised her actions towards Heddy and also the world she now inhabits, Laura’s Perfect World.  Where it is all about status, location, whether your child can speak French at 3, who is at whose party, what flooring to have, what clothes to wear, who to share secrets and gossip with. This is all false and Laura through trying to avoid helping Heddy and her mother starts to realise this and destruct the world she lives in.

This book deals with many past scars both physically and emotionally.  The incident of the dinner party when Laura announces that an empty house is going to be for asylum seekers actually made me laugh out loud. It is the sort of thing I would do, to watch the smugness of their perfect lives suddenly fall apart. This is the pivotal point for Laura and from then on I think she realised that perhaps her actions all them years ago was still affecting Heddy today.

The book was quite disturbing, the falseness and superficial friends of Laura irritated me and in the end she really never got the upper hand with them and showed them what they were really like. The incidents of self harm were I felt very difficult to read. It really gets to you when you are reading and perhaps cannot do anything about it. However, I was disappointed by the ending in someway, it was obvious that Laura’s parents were close to Heddy and her family when they were growing up as children, but the eventual reasoning behind this was somewhat weak compared to the rest of the story. That said it is a good read, and quite absorbing and makes you reflect on how we treat people now but also have in the past. Young or old.

This is the first book I have read in a long time where I had such dislike for the main character Laura, this superficial world, which some reviewers have described as very ‘Stepford Wives’ made me mad but also laugh at the same time. That is why the dinner party incident made me laugh. It is true I would say and probably have said in the past these sorts of things just to bring people back down to the real world. I watch these women with interest when I go to the gym during the day and I have to admit they are out there. I wonder if they would recognise themselves in this book? 

What I will give ten out of ten for with this book (I gave it 4 stars on Amazon) was dealing with mental illness. In this case a breakdown but also self-harm. More books that deal with such areas I think are important. I sense that Suzanne Bugler did her research on this, as the scenes were described in detail but also the feelings of the characters were shown and what effects self-harming has on everyone not just the self harmer. It rather opened my eyes some what. 

This is a good book, and the sign of that is because characters such as Laura did irritate me so much. But it was only after I had finished the book and reflected back before writing my review and this blog that we had only Laura to listen to. I would like to have heard what Heddy had to say. I question whether I would have felt differently about Laura then?