In an English seaside town, lovers and children, young men and middle-aged women weave in and out of each other's lives and stories.
A mother is tormented by her daughter's tattoo; another only pretends to love her baby. A wife stalks her husband and his new lover; a broken egg through a letterbox tells a story that will not go away; the cat thinks he knows best.
Threaded throughout are longings for love and poignant disappointments, surprising pleasures and temptations. Some will fall but some, like the small boy at the circus who sees his babysitter fly past on a trapeze wearing little more than a blue bra and spangles, will retain their feeling of awe.
Perfect Lives follows Polly Samson's rapturously received first collection, Lying in Bed. They are rueful, knowing, witty, poignant, bashful, bold. Her genius is in the nuance.
'Perfect Lives' has been published in paperback in the United States. Click here to order.
"These intertwined, silken stories deftly expose the heart-sickness behind so many of the
burnished surfaces of contemporary life."
"An unexpected combination of romp and classical: thought-provoking, sassy and comforting."
"With her effortless prose and unflinching eye, Samson dips beneath the surface of apparently contented,
even blessed lives and the result is compelling, disturbing and moving."
"A life-enhancing treat...stories, strung cleverly into a novel."
Esther Freud, Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year
"Terrific. Funny, beautifully observed and often poignant...this is a writer who misses nothing."
Cressida Connolly, Spectator Books of the Year
"Samson is mercilessly accurate at lampooning middle class self-deception."
Metro, Books of the Year
"Accomplished. Focusing, sometimes comically, sometimes compassionately...Samson traces the tremors
of disruption, threatening the stability of her characters' relationships and themselves."
Peter Kemp, Sunday Times, Books of the Year
"A collection that makes you invent excuses to retire to a private place for a quick injection of reading."
Bella Freud, Evening Standard, Books of the Year
"Perhaps the greatest joy is her descriptions, often as striking and economical as poetry...Perfect Lives confirms
Samson's reputation as a significant chronicler of contemporary life."
Stephanie Merritt, Observer
"To describe a lyricist's prose as lyrical might almost be tautological...lush and sensuous."
Shena McKay, Guardian
"Samson's writing is as effortlessly elegant as Kazuo Ishiguro or Hilary Mantel at their best."
Foyles Book of the Month
"Brilliant...I hesitate to call Samson's collection perfect. If it isn't perfect, it's all the better for that."
Katy Guest, Independent on Sunday
"Polly Samson's prose is clear and precise and she makes it sparkle every now and then by producing a
brilliant image...Perfect Lives has been worth the ten-year wait."
Susan Hill, Spectator
"Samson is a gifted writer with an eye for startling images."
Natalie Young, The Times
"Subtle and complex...Perfect Lives is an echo chamber of cause and effect, and art and life, and life and loss."
Carole Cadwalladr, Observer
"Samson is a supremely gifted prose writer...word perfect, clever, cruel and beautifully curated."
"A masterly book, impossible not to start all over again the minute you finish."
Sue Gaisford, Financial Times
"Original and compelling."
Lucy Scholes, Sunday Times
"Eye-opening, surprising and beautifully observed. I couldn't put it down. I am sure it will be made into a film."
Edward Hall, Observer
"Samson can be magnificently tender, caustic and thrillingly filthy all on the same page...the afterkick lingers for days."
Liz Hoggard, Scotsman
"Samson's prose is by turns simple, lyrical and painterly, creating sudden, vivid pictures with a few deft strokes."
Arifa Akbar, Independent
Olivia Laing, New Statesman
"Bittersweet and exquisite."
Kate Morris, The Times
"Beautiful, poetic writing."
"Dreamy, evocative prose."
"Utterly engrossing...a concise but affecting literary treat."
"Sumptuous...a collection to take time over and savour."
Waterstones Books Quarterly
"A pleasurable form...finely tuned."
"It feels like life, and Samson captures that with some beautiful writing."
"Samson's tone is pitch perfect, as bracing and invigorating as her seaside setting."
Harpers Bazaar, Hotlist
O, The Oprah Magazine
"Samson's deft touch balances pathos, love, and humor, providing an absorbing look into
very real contemporary lives."