This is a review of the 1996 book 'Perfectly Correct' by Philippa Gregory. I have enjoyed reading her historical fiction so thought I'd read some of her modern literature too.
A little about the storyline
In 'Perfectly Correct' university tutor Dr Louise Case has been having an affair for 9 years with her best friend's husband, Toby. She is an outright feminist and fights the way for women at the university. She recently moved to live in the country and is outraged to find a gypsy has come to live in her orchard, disturbing her peace and quiet. Rose (the Gypsy) is all seeing and wise and helps to turn Louise's life around without her even knowing it, a bit like a fairy godmother.
What I thought about this book
Whilst I enjoyed reading it, I think I prefer Gregory's historical fiction. It was a good enough read but it dragged a little and I was looking forward to finishing it so I can move on to my next read. In the book, none of the university staff seem to do much work which must surely be wrong! Louise is quick to back down on her feminist ways when she meets local farmer Andrew and falls for him quickly (seemingly under Rose's spell).
I liked how Gregory lined up Toby and made him look like a fool under Rose's supervision. He walks into her traps easily and you could see it coming but it was satisfying to see him, the user, being used. His thirst for fame and fortune is his undoing. Whilst Louise is the main character, you feel sorry for her best friend Miriam and I felt that Louise should have some come-uppance for her affair, is it fair for her to get the happy ever after ending?
I thought this was a good enough read and the copy I read came from readitswapit website. The book was originally circulated free with the magazine Cosmopolitan. It was well written and flowed well and didn't have too many characters within. Parts of it I thought were a little dull and the bits of Louise's essay which were included were meant to reflect the direction of her life and her unsteady feminist point of view but I must admit I found them a bit boring to read. I am still interested to read further contemporary books by Gregory and will look out for them in the future as I admire her greatly as an author.
In my opinion, Perfectly Correct is great humorous, light, modern entertainment.
Unlike some authors, Philippa Gregory doesn't use a pseudonym when she changes her style. Best known for her historical fiction, I have also enjoyed her modern psychological thriller The Little House, as well as this contemporary novel that makes fun of political correctness.
I raced through this easy to digest, sometimes absurd, but always absorbing read.
When feminist university lecturer Dr Louise Case moves to the Sussex countryside, stereotypes of those who make a living there, and those who have idealistic views about "out of town" life, clash.
Although I thought some parts of the plot implausible, especially how the country police treated some minor offences very seriously, and one major offence lightly, this added, rather than detracted, to the appeal of the humour for me.
Most of the comedy comes from what I consider to be the extraordinary behaviour of the majority of the characters. These include Suffix University based feminists (the author went to Sussex University), a "New Man" (who enjoys cooking but also behaving badly with several women), the retired Captain Frome of Wistley Manor (a new house with a snob name) and an elderly "travelling" lady called Rose.
Rose was my favourite character, although not the primary one. She had a lot to teach the younger adults, if only they would realise that she was not what she seemed on the surface.
As well as Rose's dog, called Lloyd George, other animals featured include Charolais cows, sheep, chickens and hypothetical pigs.
The plot includes subtle, and not so subtle, battles of the sexes, mystery in the form of finding out about old Rose's past, satire based on prejudices of those who think themselves very civilised, and romance.
I believe this humorous tale of political correctness would appeal to females who like intelligent chick-lit, as well as to males, with no need to prove their masculinity, that like light funny reads.
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins; New Ed edition (21 April 1997)
** Similar Style Novel **
Since writing this review, I have read another contemporary humorous novel by Philippa Gregory entitled Alice Hartley's Happiness.
This took me back to Suffix University to meet different characters, and shows how the wife of one of the Professors finds the freedom she craves.
Alice Hartley's Happiness, through its ridiculous hippy-like concepts, gave me even more laughs than Perfectly Correct. Perhaps this was because the older lead female character was easier for me to relate to.
Apart from being set at the same University the stories are unrelated, which means that it is unimportant which book you read first.
I now highly recommend both novels for light relaxing reading.