Observer: Fiction to look out for in 2019
Exploring themes of ownership and abandonment, Eleanor Anstruther’s debut is a fictionalised account of the true story of Enid Campbell (1892–1964), granddaughter of the 8th Duke of Argyll.
Interweaving one significant day in 1964 with a decade during the interwar period, A Perfect Explanation gets to the heart of what it is to be bound by gender, heritage and tradition, to fight, to lose, to fight again. In a world of privilege, truth remains the same; there are no heroes and villains, only people misunderstood. Here, in the pages of this extraordinary book where the unspoken is conveyed with vivid simplicity, lies a story that will leave you reeling.
‘A riveting story about class and inheritance that explores how chance events can kick off a chain of consequences and seemingly minor decisions create catastrophes. It is exquisitely written – it reminded me of reading Elizabeth Taylor or Virginia Woolf. It is crammed with cruelties both big and small and yet Anstruther brings these finely crafted characters to life with both an unflinching eye for their faults and a compassion for those trying to survive in a society where love is rationed. I was utterly gripped – even more so because the story is based on true events. Take note folks, Eleanor Anstruther is the real deal.’ —Tor Udall
‘Gripping and beautifully written, this is a story about motherhood, privilege and women who simply won’t, or can’t, fit in. A brilliant read. I loved it.’ —Eve Chase
‘I read A Perfect Explanation almost between my fingers – such a haunting story, beautifully told, about an exceptional situation that somehow goes to the heart of the many truths, deceptions and lies recognisable in many families. One feels so sorry for each character in turn – Enid, Finetta, Ian, all victims of time, failings and circumstance. The clashes between motherhood, religion, class, gender and personalities are all the more affecting for being portrayed with clarity and fairness. Eleanor Anstruther has written a fascinating debut and an imaginative reconstruction of her own family history.’ —Amanda Craig
‘Although it’s not a happy read, the emotional intensity drives the reader on … and on. The journey of the beautiful socialite in the spotlight, to the sociopath in the shadows is compelling and will, I am sure, hit a nerve for many of the novel’s readers. An intense and thought-provoking read.’ —Essie Fox
‘What a task to take on – diving into the inner world of desperately flawed and broken people and still finding a way to elicit our sympathy. Such a brave, unflinching portrait of a family.’ —Matthew Tynan
‘Anstruther exhumes the skeleton in her family closet with devastating skill. A captivating, chilling, deeply insightful portrait of a family torn apart by responsibilities both taken on and pushed aside. ’ —Sam Bain
‘Eleanor Anstruther’s superb debut, A Perfect Explanation (Salt, March), the fictionalised story of the granddaughter of the eighth Duke of Argyll, who sold her son to her sister for £500.’ —Alex Preston, The Observer