Book Review: A Perfect Square


Two women on either side of the world live almost parallel lives. Both artists with a preference for seclusion, Harriet in the Dandenong Ranges paints abstract scenes of Wessex and Judith in Dartmoor paints and yearns for the Australian landscapes she has never seen. Both have daughters, returned home. Both are not sure what to do with their difficult and slightly broken daughters.

A Perfect Square is Isobel Blackthorn’s third novel. The layers within this book stem from her interest in the Western esotericism and conspiracy theories. It is one of those books you read the first time for the story, and then go back to for the second layer, the glittering bits that lift the story.

Harriet has Synaesthesia – she sees colours in music and considers this an inner knowing which she struggles to portray in her art. Ginny, her musically talented daughter in her paisley clothes reminds Harriet of the “accursed seventies when the hippies took hold of the occult and turned it into fairy floss”. When Ginny returns home moping and determined to find out where her father is, Harriet proposes a collaboration of music and art.

Meanwhile, Judith’s daughter Madeline drops out of college, leaves her boyfriend and returns home. Judith is torn between worrying about her daughter and being absorbed in her painting and wanting her house back to herself.

These two fractious mother-daughter relationships are pulled together by threads of what could be seen as coincidences. But with the occult themes of this book, nothing can be dismissed as coincidence. There is a darkness that connects the two families.

This book is beautifully written. Intelligent and complicated it deserves a deep read. I particularly enjoyed reading about the characters’ struggle to create. To paint or compose music is a process of inspiration, contemplation, and doubt. Sometimes the vision is realised, but often it is not.

In our lives we often dismiss the conspiracy theorist, perhaps we are willing to accept the importance of our dreams, and maybe we dabble in reading our horoscope. A Perfect Square may leave you questioning what goes on behind closed doors in what seems like the most ordinary of situations.

A Perfect Square is published by Odyssey Books. I received a free copy in return for an honest review.

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