A Perfect Explanation by Eleanor Anstruther

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A Perfect Explanation by Eleanor Anstruther

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: A moving exploration of a life plagued by mental illness, A Perfect Explanation is a tale of historical fiction told through modern eyes – sympathetic, studied, and beautifully written.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: March 2019
Publisher: Salt
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1784631642

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Enid Campbell was a woman who, on the face of it, had everything. Leading the life of an aristocrat – full of inherited wealth and splendour, glamourous locales and high expectations. Only Enid's life has been plagued by mental illness – undiagnosed, untreated and threatening both Enid and those close to her. After losing custody of her children, Enid sells her son to her sister for £500 – but is this an act of greed, or an act of desperation? Exploring the true story of her own grandmother, Eleanor Anstruther has found the perfect subject for an explosive, moving and beautifully well written debut.

Growing up in a small northern market town, the aristocracy and the upper classes always felt like a very distant concept to me – and when I did encounter them, it was only through books and films. They seemed to live lives of unbridled luxury – but combined with an emotional coldness and detachment that seemed part and parcel of the aristocratic life. It's these contrasting themes that Anstruther explores so brilliantly in A Perfect Explanation – and allows her to show the devastating effect that mental illness can have on both an individual and a family – regardless of wealth or position.

Whilst Anstruther has a close connection to the subject matter of this book (the child sold by Enid grew up to be the author's father), Enid is carefully drawn here – not vilified nor seen through rose-tinted glasses, she is given a balanced and sympathetic portrayal – she's certainly not always likeable, but knowing in hindsight how very different things could have been for her had she grown up in a time with proper recognition of mental illness, ensures that the reader has a certain amount of empathy for Enid, no matter what her decisions.

Whilst Anstruther ensures a certain amount of distance from her grandmother, there's no denying that this is clearly a tale about family – about understanding one's own stories and perhaps, through retelling them, examining how they have impacted on one's life. As such, there is a certain tenderness that seeps through the prose – comforting the reader when the stark realities of Enid's life become too much to bear.

Clever, carefully written, and challenging and confronting stigmas, A Perfect Explanation is a balanced and carefully-handled read that deserves to be a big hit – Salt are constantly publishing the best books out there, and this is another fantastic addition to their catalogue. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy, and for further reading I recommend Larchfield by Polly Clark – another tale of difficult characters told with emotion and tenderness to great effect.

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Buy A Perfect Explanation by Eleanor Anstruther at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Perfect Explanation by Eleanor Anstruther at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy A Perfect Explanation by Eleanor Anstruther at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Perfect Explanation by Eleanor Anstruther at Amazon.com.


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