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Eleanor Anstruther

A Perfect Explanation

A Perfect Explanation


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Desmond Elliott Prize 2019

Longlisted for the Not the Booker Prize 2019

Longlisted for The Desmond Elliott Prize 2019

Observer: Fiction to look out for in 2019

The i Paper’s 30 of the best new debut novels to read in 2019

Scottish Review of Books: 2019 in Prospect

As featured on BBC Woman’s Hour, Sky Sunrise and London Live

‘Filled with cerebral intensity and scintillating dialogue’ —The Desmond Elliott Prize

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.

Praise for this Book

‘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. 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. 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

Reviews of this Book

‘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

‘A riveting tale of grown children damaged by the relentless actions of their entitled parents. Well paced and skilfully written, this is a haunting, recommended read.’ —Jackie Law, neverimitate

‘Eleanor has cherished her role as the family’s retrospective therapist. In her head she listened to the voices of all her relatives; she tried to understand the culture that surrounded them, and she feels she’s finally put their pain and agonies to rest.’ —Joanna Moorhead, You Magazine

‘★★★★★ It’s a quirk of fiction that the most extraordinary stories are those that have their origins in real human affairs and this is a prefect example of truth proving stranger than fiction. In lesser hands this story could come across as a curio or an idiosyncratic tale but Anstruther has taken something that might appear marginal and imbued it with psychological depth and great emotional understanding.’ —Paul Burke, NB Magazine

‘★★★★★ 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.’ —Luke Marlowe, The Bookbag

A Perfect Explanation, is a fictionalised account of how her father, Ian, came to be sold to her great aunt Joan for £500. It’s a sombre, anguished tale of tradition, motherhood and inheritance within an appallingly dysfunctional clan where “heritage dictates and heritage always wins”.’ —Johanna Thomas-Corr, Observer

‘Eleanor Anstruther never met this troubled woman, but she recreates her with empathy and compassion in this novel, which has been longlisted for the Desmond Elliott prize for debut fiction. Anstruther’s writing is elegant and intelligent, and the closest possible thing to a perfect explanation.’ —Kate Saunders, The Times

‘Almost all the protagonists were dead by the time Miss Anstruther was born, but, armed with the facts revealed to her by her father before he died, as well as family archives, she has used her imagination to bring her family vividly back to life through a novel that is both beautifully written and transfixing.’ —Richenda Miers, Country Life

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