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Perfect Explanation


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Here, in the pages of this extraordinary book where the unspoken is conveyed with vivid simplicity, lies a story that will leave you reeling.

About the Author

Eleanor was born in London, educated at Westminster and read History of Art at Manchester University where she was distracted from finishing her degree by an urge for adventure. She travelled through Asia, Australia, Africa and America before settling down to write her debut under the mentorship of Dr Sally Cline at Anglia Ruskin. She lives in Surrey with her twin boys.


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 GBP500.

-- Alex Preston * The Observer *

I have read many stories of minor historical figures and the troubles they encounter despite their privileged existences. This tale offers much more depth and nuance than is typical. The writing pulls the reader under the skin of each character from where they may view the pain of selfish frustrations. There are truly shocking moments yet they are never sensationalised. Rather there is a balance in the telling that allows the reader to form their own opinions. The complexities of family relationships and the pressures these create offer much to consider. 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 *

A Perfect Explanation is an extremely engaging story of the bizarre culture of the aristocracy, where love is secondary to money, and the cycle of maternal deprivation across generations is difficult to escape.

* Annecdotal *

The book is both a revelation but also deeply poignant as mental illness estranges Enid and her options narrow ... Using letters and archival evidence, and acknowledging her debt to her father 'for giving me this story in the first place', Eleanor Anstruther has explored her subject with objectivity laced with compassion. It's hard not to feel desperate sorrow for Enid, and for a family floundering in the face of something they couldn't bring themselves to accept nor understand.

-- Lynne Hatwell * dovegreyreader *

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 *

Gripping, insightful and written with a breathtaking elegance and eloquence that makes this first novel doubly impressive, Anstruther's beautifully crafted story sets out to examine and understand how the intolerable weight of expectation and responsibility can damage and destroy lives.

-- Pam Norfolk * Lancashire post *

Based on the true story of Enid Campbell, a duke's granddaughter whose battles with mental illness cost her custody of her children, Anstruther's debut novel follows a desperate Enid as she offers to give her son to her sister for GBP500. With a narrative that moves fluidly between time periods, this is a historical read that really resonates.

* Woman Magazine *

Eleanor Anstruther has written an astounding debut novel that bravely and completely brings to life a difficult family history. It also deftly holds up a mirror to our own world and asks us who are we to judge, when behind closed doors our family may not be as perfect as we like to show to the outside world either. I loved it.

* Years of Reading Selfishly *

You can't fail but be touched by A Perfect Explanation and the tragedy of a family torn apart by abandonment, lack of communication and understanding, anger and jealousy. There are no winners in this story, which is the saddest part of it.

* Over 40 and a Mum to One *

This is just superb. Elegant, intense, completely bewitching.

-- Xan Brooks

I was gripped by A Perfect Explanation, and found it to be a compelling and fascinating debut which explores the extraordinary story behind Enid Campbell, and how a woman coming from a seemingly privileged world is impacted so heavily by the pressures and traditions that surround her.

* The Owl on the Bookshelf *

This is a story of family ties and allegiances, deeply buried secrets, status and wealth. It also looks unflinchingly at the struggles of motherhood and mental health. If you're a fan of family drama's spanning over a number of years then I would recommend this book, the fact that it's based on real life events gives it that extra fascinating gravitas.

* Bookish Chat *

This is an outstanding family history put together in a way that tells of paths that were demanded to be followed through tradition, heart breaking that children could be used as a means to an end or sadly hidden away. In the epilogue the author describes how the writing of this book came about, Finetta the only one, besides her father that she ever knew. The feelings have been put together as how she believes they would have occurred and this worked perfectly for me. This has to be one of my favourite reads of this year. Just outstanding!

-- Susan Hampson * Books from Dusk Till Dawn *

This is as much a story of emotional deprivation as of entitlement or riches, and one which underlines that no group has a monopoly on humanity, fragility or fallibility - these are universal and so is this devastating and exquisitely written novel; we are all just people, in the end.

-- Isabel Costello * The Literary Sofa *

Throughout the book Anstruther perfectly combines human drama and emotion with evocative settings and haunting description. Each individual comes alike thanks to the writer's skilful descriptions and human-focused narrative, which hones in on each member of the family and brings them to vivid life.

* Dorset Book Detective *

This is a fascinating and heartbreaking read. I often find that the books I enjoy the most, are ones with flawed characters who frustrate the life out of me. A Perfect Explanation did that - I really wanted to reach into the story and bang some heads together; and when I didn't feel like doing that, I wanted to mother the children who were denied the love and care they needed ... It's a fabulous book which deserves a very wide audience.

* Emma's Book Blog *

Writing this, I find myself less concerned with the story - although it's undeniably riveting - & more enamoured of the storytelling. With the way the author lays her words on the page. This book unfolds in layers of exquisitely fierce prose. The dialogue scalds - characters show scant compassion for Enid & her situation. They are often horribly, crushingly cruel. She was clearly a deeply flawed woman but obviously ill & a victim of the mores of the time.

-- Carol Lovekin

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. A Perfect Explanation will brings it home to everyone just how connected we all are, how common our unhappinesses and joys can be.

-- 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 GBP500. 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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