|Cover illustration by Charles Mozley.|
'You were right, Alec. I am ... well, I am interested in Irma.'
Relief came instantly. So might the victim feel when the thumb-screw is loosened.
Harold and Isabel Eastwood are a conventional middle-class couple living in a coastal town with their two young children. They share a married life which has been largely uneventful until now, and which they accept without too much reflection. But A Perfect Woman tells the story of a crisis in their marriage—or perhaps it could be described as an adventure—which occurs after Harold meets the moderately-successful novelist Alec Goodrich while travelling by train.
Until that day their marriage had served to give their lives structure, and provided a way for them to define themselves within their community. Isabel had devoted herself to being an enlightened mother and housewife, and had never reflected for a moment - or perhaps had carefully refused to reflect for a moment - on whether she was personally fulfilled in these roles. And being a husband and father gave Harold a sense of his own importance, and provided a platform from which he could look down upon all those who had failed to achieve such steps. But this all changes when Harold meets the author on the train; soon after both Harold and Isabel seem prepared to abandon everything which had served to give their lives meaning, without a second thought.
Goodrich is engrossed in a book for much of the journey and so there is little conversation - it turns out to be one of his own, for he is ever-hopeful that a fellow passenger will notice his choice of reading material and be effusive in praise, and so we learn early on that this is a man who is unusually self-concerned and in need of affirmation. But this is one pleasure that Harold cannot offer him, as he is not a reader, and he certainly knows nothing of Goodrich's novels.