Review of A Perfect Square


A Perfect Square by Isobel Blackthorn

Publisher: Odyssey Books

Publication Date: August 29, 2016

Back in May I started trying to read A Perfect Square by Isobel Blackthorn, but I was at the beach and it is most definitely not a beach read and so I postponed reading until I was in more suitable environs.

A Perfect Square is a novel about Harriet, an artist, and her daughter, Ginny, a pianist/composer who is returning home after a failed love affair. In the hopes of re-energizing her daughter, Harriet suggests that they do an exhibition of painting and song.

It’s also the story of Judith, also an artist, and her daughter, Madeleine, who has left school, with only a semester to finish, after discovering that her boyfriend cheated on her with her best friend.

What initially made A Perfect Square so challenging to read is the vast quantity of detailed prose for perhaps the first quarter of the book. Frankly I felt positive the entire novel was going to continue with detailed descriptions of drapes and dresses and paisley, but the style became less lumbering and the story picked up pace.

Of all of the women, the first I felt any affinity for was Judith who seemed more down-to-earth and recognized truths about herself. She enjoys her solitude and is honest in her thinking. It took awhile for me to warm up to Ginny and Harriet, both of whom feel set apart and elevated. However, by the end, I did care about the characters and cared about their struggles.

At its heart this is a novel about women with at least one sly reference to how men take credit for the accomplishments of women. It’s also about the relationships of women, whether they are mother and daughter or best friends. The mother and daughter relationships are more carefully examined with hints of jealousy and futility and misunderstandings, the desire to do the right thing, but being unsure of what that is. However, even if a woman does not believe herself to be a good mother, she will discover at her core that she is more than she thought.

Esotericism is woven throughout the novel by way of astrology, the occult, and brief mentions of practices. Much of the discussion of symbology is detailed and may prove frustrating unless you are at all intrigued by patterns and geometry. Similarly, the thoughts on Kadinsky and his art, which relate to Harriet’s work, may be too detailed for the average reader.

If you are such a reader, you will discover that those passages dwindle during the second half of the novel, which does become a page turner.

The nature of creativity and intellect is also investigated and I found it intriguing and worthy of revisiting now that I’ve finished reading.

Lastly, the novel is one of secrets that unfold like petals of a flower.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

rating: butterflybutterflybutterflybutterfly (4 out of 5 butterflies)


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