Blog tour: 28 July to 29 August 2021
Have you ever wanted to be someone else?
Vanessa has always found it easy to pretend to be somebody different, somebody better. When things get tough in her real life, all she has to do is throw on some nicer clothes, adopt a new accent and she can escape.
That’s how it started: looking round houses she couldn’t possibly afford. Harmless fun really. Until it wasn’t.
Because a man who lived in one of those houses is dead.
And everyone thinks Vanessa killed him …
After things start going wrong in her life, Vanessa Adams, 32, checks the listings at various high-end estate agents and becomes addicted to looking round beautiful, expensive houses that she can’t possibly afford. She likes pretending to be someone else and imagining living in a stunning house. She ends up moving in with her older sister, Georgie, 45, and brother-in-law, Jack, in Wimbledon after a relationship break up and the loss of her job.
One evening, the police knock on the door and accuse Vanessa of murdering the owner of one of the houses that she viewed. She denies everything but can’t remember what did happen that fateful day.
Told in two timelines, then (2017) and now (2018), we learn about the events that lead up to Vanessa being questioned for murder. She is a rather unreliable narrator and I wasn’t sure whether to believe her version of what happened or not, especially with some of the comments from her best friend, Lottie, her ex, Connor and her sister, Georgie. Interspersed between the two time periods are flashbacks (in italics) to Vanessa’s childhood and her various memories.
In 2017, Vanessa works in marketing for cosmetics company, Luna London, and she lives with her friend of 14 years, Lottie, a case manager at a children’s charity. They’re both single and get on well and have fun together and enjoy their girlie nights out. When Vanessa gets a new boyfriend and spends all her time with him, Lottie feels sidelined and, eventually, the two women fall out.
Things progress rather fast with Connor Dawkins, an art director, and the couple fall head over heels in love and, before long, Vanessa is moving into his flat. Life isn’t all rosy for the pair and the couple’s relationship is unhealthy and toxic. They’re both flawed in their own ways.
Vanessa’s behaviour becomes rather erratic and she gets carried away with her new relationship and forgets the important things in life like her family, friends and job. Connor is horrible and far too jealous and possessive and Vanessa is totally taken in by him and is blind to his bad points – the emotional abuse and manipulative and coercive behaviour.
By the time Vanessa is accused of murder, her life has descended into chaos and she’s not sure how she came to be in this position. Lots happens to her in the year after meeting Connor and she has to be strong to unravel the full story.
Overall, I enjoyed The Perfect Life – it was well paced, tense, gripping and even creepy in parts. Vanessa was a difficult character to suss out and there was certainly lots going on in her life. It was fascinating to discover more about her childhood and learn what happened to her mum. Her relationship with Connor was frustrating as he was very controlling and kept trying to gaslight Vanessa and convince her that she was doing things and behaving in certain ways. She couldn’t see what was happening most of the time or just ignored his behaviour and made excuses.
This was an engaging and absorbing book and rather dark and disturbing at times. It was an intriguing and easy read, with short chapters, and I flew through it in a few hours, desperate to learn more about how Vanessa came to be accused of murder. By the end, there certainly had been some shocking revelations and I was surprised by how it was all resolved. An entertaining read!
I’ve read the author’s third thriller, The House on the Lake, so will have to go back and read her first two books, which I’ve got on my shelves already!
Buy the book
About the author
Nuala Ellwood is the author of three bestselling novels: My Sister’s Bones, for which she was selected as one of The Observer’s ‘New Faces of Fiction 2017’, Day of the Accident and The House on the Lake. The Perfect Life is her latest novel.
Nuala lives in York with her young son.
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