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…
I am a big fan of Nuala Ellwood’s My Sister’s Bones, so was excited to see another released from this author. The Perfect Life completely drew me in within the first few pages, and I found myself racing through it.
The synopsis talks about a dead man in a house that main character Vanessa has gone to view, despite knowing she’ll never be able to afford it – a ‘hobby’ Vanessa does quite frequently. However, I felt that the plot actually has very little to do with the death and is far more about her relationship with her controlling boyfriend Connor, which to be honest I found the most gripping element to the book – and her house viewings play a part in this.
We see Vanessa at the start of the book as a confident woman but then watch with sadness as her relationship with Connor takes over her life and leads to a steady decline in her friendships, work-life and mental health. The book jumps between the present day – when something awful has happened, for which Vanessa is a suspect, and ‘then’ when we see her meet Connor and jump, feet first, into a relationship with. Nuala writes really skilfully on this, and I can completely see how someone would find themselves in a relationship like this. It’s not all dramatics and Connor isn’t a pantomime villain. He’s clever and insidious.
The mystery of what happened at ‘that house’ gripped me less, which is unusual as I often find myself leaning towards any books with suspense or mystery in it. However, I think the story about Vanessa and Connor was just so engaging that I would have quite happily just read more about this. The character development is great and the way things slowly changed between them felt quite realistic.
The plot surrounding the death of the man at one of the house viewings only really kicks in quite late in the book, I felt – the last 20% or so – and all of a sudden it really ramps up a gear. I felt like it was a little too much all of a sudden. Things take a completely different path and the plot felt like it changed so much that it felt out of place in the novel- I much preferred the rest of the novel.
Overall I still really enjoyed most of The Perfect Life but just didn’t connect with the last fifth of the book or so. Would still recommend it as a fun, entertaining read.
Many thanks to Penguin Random House, who provided a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.