The Perfect Life - Nuala Ellwood

By pretending to be a mother of two or a widower with nothing to lose, Vanessa feels closer to happiness than she's felt for a long time. When she views a house for sale well out of her price range, pretending to be the elusive Iris, it's just another hit of fake perfection. But then the owner is found dead and Vanessa needs to figure out at what point did she stop telling herself the truth and got caught up in her own lies.


Big thanks to Ellie at Penguin for organising the blog tour of this one and for letting me be included! The idea of having a main character pretending to be someone else really intrigued me as you know from the start that there may be some unreliable narration. I love the revelation of unreliable narrators, so knowing of the possibility from the beginning really drew me in to seeing how it would be approached. My fellow reviewers have done some excellent reviews so far, check them out!

I do love a novel with morally ambiguous characters, but I also love when an author makes the effort of creating a character for a bit of relief, which is why I want to open my review expressing my love for Georgie and the way she was portrayed. Ellwood entwines the sisterly support and level-headedness in such a way that let me relax my shoulders after reading the tense plot we follow Vanessa through but without distracting us too much from what is really going on. Thrillers are expected to be one thing; thrilling, but when an author sees an opportunity to give the reader a small break so their jaws aren't permanently stiff with tension it's an incredible feat to include it without breaking the overall tone of the novel.


Without revealing too much, Vanessa's story starts for us by detailing her potential involvement in a murder, whose murder? We don't know, but she can be pinpointed at the scene and time of the crime. A classic introduction to a thriller that gets you engaged immediately, however, this is a time-jump novel that flicks between 'Now' and 'Then' when Vanessa seemingly "had it all", the job, the boyfriend, the future. Between the two time periods something has gone drastically wrong for her and what I really enjoyed was that the time periods actually join up to give us the full narrative picture. The reader sees the build-up of tension for Vanessa and shows us the warning signs of her lifestyle with Connor, whilst simultaneously reflecting on the aftermath of her actions. It is an extremely clever change of perspective as Ellwood doesn't give the game away on either side, we know exactly what we need to know to stay encapsulated in the world of Vanessa.


Whilst the main plot of this novel was extremely interesting I did get a bit of plot-whiplash when it came to the final 25%. The narrative went from 0 to 100 very quickly and I definitely had to re-read a couple of pages to fully grasp what had all of a sudden occurred, from there it was a crazy ride into the depths of the story. For me, the revelation of who was behind the murder seemed very unexpected and there was no real way to guess that information. Hints and references to the real perpetrator could have been more pronounced in the narrative, shock twist endings are what we're all after but the introduction of a completely new concept within the last 70 pages doesn't flow well for me. I actually loved the revelation itself, I just wished there had been more for me to guess at it with.


If you're after a dark and emotional thriller, I definitely recommend picking this one up because it really touches on important topics whilst entertaining you with a tense and well-executed narrative.


There are several trigger warnings to make you aware of for this novel, I will not put them on this blog for fear of ruining the plot for anyone who still wants to pick it up but StoryGraph do an incredible section for each book that has the content warnings if you'd rather pre-scan for any triggers you'd rather not read, for this book you can find them here: https://app.thestorygraph.com/books/a6de67ac-9a1a-42bd-a324-f69cd66c318d/content_warnings


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