The Perfect Life caught my eye when it came up on offer at Net-galley, mainly because I remember being thrilled to bits with another Nuala Ellwood title—My Sister’s Bones. I’m very grateful to the publishers and net-galley for the opportunity. I persistently tried to call this one The Perfect Lie, which would also have been a good title!

The Perfect Life

by Nuala Ellwood


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… [goodreads]

My Review

I love Nuala Ellwood’s writing. It’s gritty, clever, descriptive, emotional, thrilling, and deeply disturbing. So I was excited to get her latest book, and excited to start reading it.

The Perfect Life is a tale which switches back and forward from the dire situation facing Vanessa now, to the carefree, well, quite mixed-up actually, young woman with ideas and dreams, who finds the perfect boyfriend and wants to settle down with him. Bridget Jones with a toxic boyfriend. It doesn’t take the reader long to worry about his controlling nature–and the details suggests it’s on one spectrum or other.

I did worry about her. I fretted so much about her, and what was going on, that I got seriously worried about her. And… house-hunting. That’s something I’ve done a lot of lately. And imagining life is somehow different from reality. Oh, so easy to do during lockdown, especially for a writer, just write yourself into a different role, why not.

And I got so tense and nervous for Vanessa that I had to put it down. I had to leave it to one side. After reading the wonderfully warming What You Can See From Here, I decided to pick it up again. And hit two more trigger points straight off, as if the author knows everything that freaks me out.

So, despite the wonderful writing, the excellence of the construction and what is probably a gripping, really thrilling ending, I had to abandon it. I just can’t take thrillers any more. Crime, okay, but not suspense, or thrilling, mind-bending psychological tension such as Ms Ellwood produces. It’s a real shame, but the fault is mine, not the book.

Book Review | The Perfect Life by Nuala Ellwood
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2 thoughts on “Book Review | The Perfect Life by Nuala Ellwood

  • 31 July, 2021 at 3:34 pm

    Thrillers are right up my alley, Jemima. Hugs to you and the boys.

  • 1 August, 2021 at 10:22 pm

    Me, too – I need to sleep at night!

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