Another blog tour post for you today, this time a review of a gripping historical book depicting real-life events from a fresh perspective.
A real life story that is almost too mind-boggling to be true, Eleanor Anstruther’s A Perfect Explanation tells the story of Enid Campbell, the author’s grandmother, who sold her son Ian, Anstruther’s father, to her aunt Joan for £500 in the 1930s.
The book is incredibly rich in human emotion and, as the author explains in the epilogue, is designed to turn these half-remembered caricatures from her family’s past into living, breathing, thinking entities.
Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the women involved: be it Enid herself, in both the 1960s, when she lives in a nursing home awaiting a visit from the son she sold and across the year leading up to his sale, as well as her daughter, who was not sold but still feels the burden it placed on her family, as well as Joan herself, who is coming to terms with the challenging fate her sister has thrust upon her.
This approach ensures that the reader is able to view the complex drama that unfolds through numerous perspectives, helping them to feel empathy and understanding. With such a personal connection to such an emotive and upsetting case, Anstruther could easily have created a take-down of her grandmother, but instead she wrote a unique and deeply moving book which explores her motives and those of the other players in the tragedy.
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.
In all I was incredibly impressed by this moving portrayal of human suffering, mental illness, obsession and parenthood, and I think anyone who enjoys books of any genre that are rich in human emotion will too.