Gail Godwin

Fiction by Gail Godwin

PerfectionistsThe Perfectionists
A Novel

Published 1970


Read an Excerpt

An eccentric English psychotherapist, his new young American wife, his three-year-old illegitimate son, who never speaks, and a young female patient take themselves off to Majorca for what they hope will be a healing vacation. But as it progresses, they find the sun, the sea, the idle hours relaxing their control over their interior derangements.

The doctor and his wife had married before they knew each other well, each believing the other to be the perfect companion for an adventure of self-realization. Instead intensified proximity and lack of diversion force them to see aspects of one another they would rather not see. With them, and between them always, is the implacably silent child, the mirror of their judgments and their hostilities, a sort of moral barometer.

The young patient yields to an ambiguous love affair which her brief analysis has not yet prepared her to interpret realistically.

Scenes in this novel function as does the relentless island sun. One harsh exposure after another reveals unsavory shadows of the characters' hearts and minds. Using the moral and intellectual relationships of these people, the author postulates one probable result of an "idealistic" lifestyle undertaken without love or charity. Miss Godwin is a young writer at home with characterization and plot, unembarrassed by dramatic scenes. Her harrowing story has an edge unusual in today's fiction: a sense of wrong.


Los Angeles Times

"This is so skillfully in the classical tradition, and at the same time so accurate on the old Adam and Eve battle. I thought the British psychiatrist an only too convincing male monster."
—John Fowles

"A tense, tight, erotic book, complete with highly dramatic scenes, in an unembarrassed, uncluttered manner."
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"Original in its situation, astute in its insight, and quite impeccably styled."
Kirkus Reviews

Ballantine Books | Paperback| 220 pages