The Idea of Perfection is literally about a bridge: a fictitious wooden span near Karakarook in rural New South Wales. Known to the locals as Bent Bridge, it has been damaged, though not destroyed, by a mass of drifting timber that struck its central supports during a flood. Although apparently weakened, the bridge remains structurally viable, and it has become an object of fierce debate in the town. Should the bridge be saved as part of a campaign to preserve the region’s heritage, or should it be torn down to make room for a more modern structure? This question divides the townsfolk yet brings together two newcomers to Karakarook—a man and a woman who yearn to build emotional bridges but fear that they lack the tools to do so.
Harley Savage, a tall, unfashionable woman with a love of folk artifacts, has come to Karakarook to help establish a heritage museum. Douglas Cheeseman, a large-eared, socially maladroit engineer, has been sent to supervise the demolition of Bent Bridge. Like the bridge, both have survived potentially crushing blows. He has been divorced. She has been divorced twice and, in a most devastating fashion, lost a third husband to suicide. Thus far, like the bridge, they have been bent but not broken, but their futures are very much in doubt. Meanwhile, a self-absorbed ex-model named Felicity Porcelline struggles to fend off middle age as she flirts with a Chinese butcher whose ethnic background both disturbs and intrigues her.