Title: The Perfect Life
Author: Nuala Ellwood
Genre: Psychological Thriller
# of pages: 400
Published by: Penguin UK
Published on: 5th August
Vanessa Adams has an image in her mind about her perfect life. Every time she dreamt about her life, she pretended to be someone else. She went on rounds to visit houses on the market as a prospective buyer. The only problem with these houses was, they were well beyond her means. Every day she escaped from her real-world to enter this fantasy and imagined herself in those houses. She would imagine her perfect life. However, her dream was shattered only to be replaced by a nightmare. In one such house, she finds a dead body. Only this time, it’s too real and, she has no place to escape.
Vanessa Adam had a troubled childhood. Now, she is a successful marketing executive for a high-end cosmetics company, Luna London. She is the brightest and comes up with innovative ideas in her organization. She spends her evenings with Lottie, her best friend. One night while out with Lottie, Vanessa meets Connor and, things gradually start changing in her life.
Vanessa’s childhood shaped her life. She lost her mother when she was a kid. The only good memories she has, are from the times her mother read stories from her favourite book. In those stories, she created a fantasy world and, once her mother passed away, these escapades gave her peace and happiness.
The book spreads across two timelines. In the 2017 timeline, readers can read about Vanessa as a successful executive and her excitement over falling in love. The readers see her going through the website for her dream house and her dream life. It became an obsession for her. She desperately searched for her dream life, so much that she ignored the signs of evil was around the corner.
In the present timeline, readers see the opposite of Vanessa because of the dark times in her life. She lives with her sister, who is much older than her. But things around Vanessa were never simple. Her behaviour creates suspicion and, everyone doubts her including, the readers.
The perfect life raises an important question, that what is the perfect life? Our perception of perfection is derived from an image we had in our mind, or, it is borrowed from someone else’s image of a perfect life. The book also raised questions about relationships and the controlling behaviour of people. Even the brightest and the best people can ignore the signs of controlling relationships. These ideas form the basis of the central theme of the book.
Nuala Ellwood’s writing is intriguing, thought-provoking and points towards our social issue. Her writing puts one in thinking mode (and there is also more excitement along with it). The book maintains its theme from the beginning where everything starts perfectly and, as one reads along, sees the perfection was only pretentious. The ending is surprising and is an apt conclusion to the story.
Ellwood’s previous books differ slightly from this one, but it is as compelling as her previous books.
Thank you, NetGalley and Penguin UK, for the copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.