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A Perfect Square

Isobel Blackthorn

Average Review Rating Average Rating 8/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Odyssey Books

Published : 2016

Copyright : Isobel Blackthorn 2016

ISBN-10 : PB 1-922200-45-X
ISBN-13 : PB 978-1-922200-45-7

Publisher's Write-Up

When pianist Ginny Smith moves back to her mother’s house in Sassafras after the breakup with the degenerate Garth, synaesthetic and eccentric Harriet Brassington-Smythe is beside herself. She contrives an artistic collaboration to lift her daughter’s spirits: an exhibition of paintings and songs. Ginny reluctantly agrees.

While mother and daughter struggle with the elements of the collaborative effort, and as Ginny tries to prise the truth of her father’s disappearance from a tight-lipped Harriet, both are launched into their own inner worlds of dreams, speculations and remembering.

Meanwhile, another mother and artist, Judith, alone in a house on the moors, reflects on her own troubled past and that of her wayward daughter, Madeleine. Set amid the fern glades and towering forests of the Dandenong ranges east of Melbourne, and on England’s Devon moors, A Perfect Square is a literary thriller of remarkable depth and insight.

'Similar to Kandinsky’s brush that flawlessly moves from concrete to abstract, and from material to spiritual, A Perfect Square delicately blends family romance, art history, esoteric theories, and human drama as it traces the main protagonist’s search for her father that imperceptibly becomes the search for wisdom and transcendence.'

Vladimir Golstein, Professor of Russian literature, Browns University, NY

'Across two continents, two sets of mothers and daughters are united by a dark mystery. A Perfect Square is a fine novel about the power of art to heal, and to disturb.'

David Whish Wilson, Zero at the Bone
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Reader Reviews

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Review by Michelle Saftich (310816) Rating (8/10)

Review by Michelle Saftich
Rating 8/10
A Perfect Square is an absorbing literary thriller by author Isobel Blackthorn, which delivers a well-executed and thought-provoking ride towards a diabolically chilling climax.

Exquisitely written, the novel weaves its way around two, hauntingly similar stories, both based upon mother-daughter relationships, within which the daughters are troubled by absent fathers and wanting more attention or empathy from their artistic mothers.

The author, like an artist slowly dabbing paint upon a canvas, methodically yet tauntingly brings to life complex, damaged characters, their pasts, their struggles to relate to each other and the paths they are set upon.

By the time truths are revealed, the reader is fully involved and caring about the fate of the characters, fates that are disturbingly interchangeable, if not for the timing...

Timing, by the way of moon cycles, as well as art, music, creativity, synchronicity and mysticism are themes that litter this unique and intellectually engaging story. There is much to savour in the symbolism offered and in the beautifully crafted prose. But driving the reader forward is the sinister plot that slowly unfolds...

The novel begins with Ginny moving back home with her mother, Harriet, after breaking up with her boyfriend of three years. Harriet, wanting to snap her daughter out of her depression, suggests to her that they could hold a joint exhibition. They decide after some contention that Harriet would create nine paintings; and Ginny would compose nine songs... inspiration for their works to be sourced from the moon’s movements in relation to the planets. Not every mother’s cheer-up remedy, but for Harriet, who Ginny perceives as “a mother so lacking in depth, so pretentious and arty”; it is the best she can devise.

Ginny agrees to the exhibition but as far as she is concerned she is: “in her mother’s house because she had nowhere else to go, here to reassess her life, here to make sense of her recent past, a past that catapulted her back on the search for answers, for revelations, for anything that would help her understand why she didn’t have a father.”

As Ginny pushes her mother to open up about her father, Harriet remains “too tight-lipped”, turning Ginny’s quest to understand the past into “a real present tense endeavour”.

Harriet, while wanting to protect her daughter, is not thrilled to have her back home, miserable and pushing for answers about her father. At the crux of it, Harriet fears that her daughter’s mood will “thwart her creativity”.

As mother and daughter are locked in each other’s orbit, like the moon and the planets that they are seeking inspiration from, their relationship waxes and wanes, and there are ups and downs, light and shade.

They approach their art as differently as they approach life, but in their own way they unlock their creativity. As the exhibition is finally pulled together, much more is unlocked and released.

Interspersed between mother and daughter tensions, is the unravelling of the story of Judith and her wayward daughter Madeleine.

Madeleine is also eager to seek out a relationship with her estranged father… but unlike the protective Harriet, Judith encourages contact.

What finally is produced, through the author’s cleverly paced revelations, is a dark, unsettling picture – the last dabs of paint are applied and the reader is left to watch in horror as the intertwined stories resolve.

The reader is no longer looking at crescents but a full moon, bright and harsh in its full circle. But light brings a new start too, after the dark.

There is so much to this layered novel. It is every bit a thriller – holding the reader, serving up pages of simmering suspense and startling secrets.

The author’s writing style is poetic, complex, fresh. Descriptions are purposeful and suggest much about the characters. For instance, Ginny’s obsession with paisley clothes, is her clutching to her childhood.

There is a strong sense of the feminine throughout – beyond the female characters and their strong female friendships, the reader can’t help but feel the over-riding feminine power of creativity, caves and cycles.

If looking for an intriguing, well-crafted story that at the end will have you biting your nails… then pick up A Perfect Square and immerse yourself in it. I strongly recommend it.
Michelle Saftich (31st August 2016)

Reviewer; Michelle Saftich, author of Port of No Return. Michelle has a background in communications management, public/media relations and journalism.

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