The BookBrowse Review

Published January 22, 2020

ISSN: 1930-0018

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Book Jacket

A Perfect Explanation
by Eleanor Anstruther
4 Feb 2020
320 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN-13: 9780358120858
Genre: Historical Fiction
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A "superb debut" (The Guardian) novel - based on the story of the author's grandmother - following an aristocratic woman who abandons her family and her money in search of a life she can claim as her own.

Enid Campbell, granddaughter of a duke, grew up surrounded by servants, wanting for nothing except love. But when her brother died in the First World War, a new heir was needed, and it was up to Enid to provide it.

A troubled marriage and three children soon followed. Broken by postpartum depression, overwhelmed by motherhood and a loveless marriage, Enid made the shocking decision to abandon her family, thereby starting a chain of events—a kidnap, a court case, and selling her son to her sister for £500—that reverberated through the generations.

Interweaving one significant day in 1964, when it seems the family will reunite for one last time, with a decade during the interwar period, A Perfect Explanation explores the perils of aristocratic privilege, where inheritance is everything and happiness is hard won.

Finalist for the Desmond Elliott Prize.

"[S]plendid...This robust story provides insight into aristocratic duties, sibling revenge, and the convoluted feelings that can arise between mothers and their children. This lush family saga will appeal to fans of Ann Patchett." - Publishers Weekly

"A stifling, dismaying tale of upper-class dysfunction elegantly told." - Kirkus Reviews

"Exquisitely written debut...this heart-wrenching tale provides an inside look at the inner workings of a privileged, aristocratic family that values money over everything else. Readers who follow Enid's anguished journey will be left raw with emotion. This immersive story about family, inheritance, and motherhood is a good read-alike for Paula McLain's historical fiction." - Booklist

"[A] superb debut." - The Guardian (UK)

"Haunting...Eleanor Anstruther never met [her grandmother], but she recreates her with empathy and compassion in this novel...Elegant and intelligent." - The Times (UK)

"Superbly structured and told with such conviction and in such a direct, honest, and engaging voice, this first novel is full of splendid surprises taking us into the privileged world and inner life of a woman who is both so familiar and so wonderfully strange." - Sheila Kohler, author of Becoming Jane Eyre

Eleanor Anstruther was born in London and now lives on a farm in Surrey with her twin boys. A Perfect Explanation is her debut novel.

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