Title: Perfect Reader: A Novel
Author: Maggie Pouncey
Release Date: June 15, 2010
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Amazon Vine
Rating: 4 out of 5
When Flora Dempsey’s father dies, she returns to her hometown in order to settle his will and understand what exactly being his literary executor means. Her father was the former president of Darwin College, so he was famous in the community. Flora feels ambivalent about returning and facing the ghosts of her past, and is surprised to discover facets of her father’s life she knew nothing about.
I love academic settings for books, so I jumped at the chance to read Perfect Reader. (Plus, as an avid reader, how could I not be captured by that title?) Pouncey’s descriptions and atmospheric portrayal of the college town were simply wonderful. The reader could smell the musty books in the library, taste the strength of the coffee at the local campus coffee shop. Additionally, Pouncey really gave the reader a sense of the somewhat claustrophobic nature of a small college town. Even if something is your private business, chances are, everyone is going to know what it is by the end of the day.
The focus of Perfect Reader is on relationships and how complicated they can be. Part of the book consists of flashbacks to times when Flora’s father was still alive. Through these glimpses into her past, the reader can really get a sense of what her father was like, and what the nature of their connection was. Additionally, Pouncey depicts Flora’s friendship with a local girl, Georgia, and how it shaped Flora. These relationships are key to understanding Flora as she is today.
Though I did enjoy Perfect Reader, I had a little trouble with Flora. She wasn’t developed well enough for my tastes, and as a result I had trouble connecting with her. Since this is a character driven novel, that made the book languish at times. I did like her and I was invested in her story. I just would have appreciated more of an emotional connection with her.
Perfect Reader was a solid novel that I enjoyed, despite my hesitations about Flora. The academic setting and Flora’s quest to be the perfect reader for her father’s poems are wonderful aspects of the book. Fans of lighter literary fiction and books set in academia should consider this book.