I only post reviews here when a book is so superb it leaves me wanting…
This is such a book.
A Perfect Explanation is a perfect book. Eleanor Anstruther’s immaculate debut is a fictionalised narration of the true story of her ancestor, Enid Campbell, granddaughter of the 8th Duke of Argyll, who sold Enid’s son to her sister, Joan, for £500.
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.
Although it’s an unbearably tragic story & one can look at Enid & judge her, the author chooses to show her compassion; to vindicate her & lay out her virtually impossible choices. Ultimately it’s a kind book, a generous retelling in which no judgement is made. Anstruther has allowed all her characters to speak for themselves, reveal their prejudices & their vulnerabilities.
This is a haunting, astute & memorable book. I found it hard to put down & there is, I suspect, no higher praise. Not enough stars.