The hands of the watch stood at five past eight.
The only kind of death that can be accurately predicted to the minute had taken place, the death that takes its victim, feet foremost through the floor,Into an empty space This is from the first chapter of Barbara Vine s book A Dark Adapted Eye, which was first published in 1986 It was the first novel by this particular name, but not by this author The reason Barbara Vine is a pseudonym for Ruth Rendell.
Ruth Rendell had already established her credentials as potentially the new Queen of Crime novels after the golden age of Agatha Christie, perhaps sharing her crown with P.
D James She had written many crime novels, often showing an acute sense of psychology and sexual psycho pathology Just as good, but appealing to a wider audience as conventional fare, was her Inspector Wexford series of popular police procedurals However, despite all the accolades and awards, Ruth Rendell did not feel that her imagination was being given full rein She felt the need to set herself a new challenge, and to explore another side of her writing personality Yes, she may have written many accomplished police procedurals and twisted psychological novels, but she felt the need to explore a third, slightly different slant for her psychological thrillers A Dark Adapted Eye shows a significant shift in the direction, emphasis and style of Ruth Rendell s novels.
For these novels, published between 1986 and 2012, she used the nom de plume Barbara Vine She set the bar even higher, perhaps because the critics had never really rated her work as literary fiction, although she had an immense readership She was urged to go beyond the whodunit and even the psychological questions she dealt with, of how and why a criminal was made Now she needed to address how ordinary people dealt with the skeletons in their cupboard, and what might happen when secrets, which had been buried in their past, came out into the light And the public loved the emergence of Barbara Vine A Dark Adapted Eye won the Mystery Writers of America Edgar award for best novel of the year These were to be a different kind of novel to the ones Ruth Rendell had given us previously, but they quickly began to rival the sales and public acclaim of her earlier work, and were also adapted for television Barbara Vine was here to stay.
Ruth Rendell favoured using twisting plots to expose twisted minds Except for the Inspector Wexford novels, she usually offered close ups of psychopaths in the making We are privy to a lot of terrible and often ironic plot elements, as we see the horrible deeds come closer and closer to actuality But with a Barbara Vine novel, there is a much leisurely approach It will still be a tale of obsession, madness and chaos, but it will follow a far and intricate and circuitous exposition Sometimes the reader feels the tale is deliberately delayed, teasing them with a build up which may never be quite explained For in Barbara Vine novels, Ruth Rendell feels free to break a sacrosanct rule of crime novels, the assumption that there will be a clear solution to a crime affording a final satisfaction to the reader Barbara Vine, daringly, may leave part of the denouement deliberately ambiguous.
Interestingly, Barbara Vine is in a way an expression of Ruth Rendell s dual nature She explainedRuth was my father s choice of name for me, Barbara my mother s Her side of the family called me Barbara and my father finally started calling me Barbara too.
Both names are equally familiar to me, equally my names If either were called out in the street, I would turn around Ruth and Barbara are two aspects of me Ruth is tougher, colder, analytical, possibly aggressive Ruth is the professional writer Barbara is feminine It is Barbara who sews If Barbara writes, it is letters that she writes.
For a long time I have wanted Barbara to have a voice as well as Ruth It would be a softer voice speaking at a slower pace, sensitive perhaps, and intuitive In A Dark Adapted Eye she has found that voice There would be nothing surprising to a psychologist in Barbara s choosing, as she asserts herself, to address readers in the first person More than thirty years later, it is difficult to remember how ground breaking A Dark Adapted Eye must have been No other crime writer seemed to be producing anything so emotionally and psychologically complex, although there are many now The novel demands close attention, and the reader becomes compelled to be absorbed, because there is no way of telling which detail will be key to revealing secrets further along the twisting path of the story And there will be secrets, and secrets in plenty Nobody knew better than Ruth Rendell how to hold readers in the tight grip of suspense.
We are aware of the narrator immediately, and also that this novel will be a leisurely one to savour, rather than one which will hit the reader in the eye with its explicit and gory descriptions The opening sentenceOn the morning Vera died I woke up very early , and the start of the second paragraphIn these circumstances alone one knows when someone is going to dieimmediately feel very different from her other novels They intrigue us, but in a rather oblique way And then shortly after, we get the quotation I put at the start of this review That confirms to us that this will be a carefully crafted piece, by an author who had a keen appreciation of language Her titles often came unusual parts of English, such asKissing the Gunner s Daughter , which was an obscure naval punishment, orAn Unkindness of Ravens , which is one of the very odd collective nouns for groups of bird speciesfeet foremost through the floor,Into an empty space is of course a quotation from Oscar Wilde s masterpiece,The Ballad of Reading Gaol , which was published in 1904 And thus we learn, in a very elegant way, that this novel is going to be concerned with someone who was executed And that the narrator, Faith, was a very close relation her niece In fact Faith has spent most of her life avoiding talking or even thinking about the events which led up to her aunt s being hanged for murder She eschewed reading about the crime, and attempted to distance herself as far as possible from the events Faith had built a little cocoon of emotional safety for herself, and this account we are to read, is partly for the benefit of the true crime author, who asked for her memories, and perhaps a little for herself, to develop thedark adapted eyeof the title In medical terms, a dark adapted eye is one which has adjusted to darkness, so that it is able to discern objects So here, it is symbolic of Faith s growing ability, after many years of hiding her head in the sand, to begin to examine and analyse her family s history, and its ultimate tragedy.
We know right from the beginning, if we are to believe Faith s account, who the murderer is, but not why or how the murder was committed Nor do we know who the victim is We have suspicions, but it is not made clear until the final few pages And there is a twist, although it may not be one the reader guesses I didn t This is psychological crime fiction, rather than a murder mystery per se.
The story is largely set during World War II, which ironically is perhaps why this novel is easily read now, without feeling dated It was already history in 1986, although as the events proceed, the distance from when the novel was written becomes less than the distancing, or reach of the past, which is described Faith Severn, now middle aged, is recounting her memories of her aunt, the prim and fastidious Vera Hillyard, whom we know was hanged for murder back in the late 1940s But whom did Vera kill, and why We know that Francis, Vera s elder son changed his name as soon as she was arrested We also know that the younger son, Jamie is presently living in Italy at the start of the book He was only 6 when his mother was hanged so remembers very little, and what he does remember may be unreliable Many characters such as he are extremely reluctant to discuss anything about the affair.
We learn that Vera was socially conscious to the point of snobbishness, and that her husband, Gerald, was hardly ever around We learn about Faith s uneasy relationship with her aunts the nervy, obsessional Vera, and the lovely, selfish, much younger sister Edith, called Eden , who had virtually been raised and instructed in the traditional values of housecraft by her adoring older sister In fact Vera s life centres on her beautiful sister, and as a young girl Faith feels judged and excluded from the exceptionally close bond these two have She notes that even Vera s own son, Francis, is not close to his mother but is an adolescent with a vicious streak, who delights in being cruel to her.
We learn of Faith s own family and contingent unhappinesses, and also that of various other friends and relations Vera s brother, Faith s father, had viewed his sisters as near saints, and held them up as examples to his own family, tainting all their relationships by so doing When Vera was convicted as a murderer, he was so shocked that he removed all photos of her, refusing to read any newspaper reports or go to her trial We see evidence of many family secrets involved in the case, and can only guess at first, as details emerge through Faith s childhood reminiscences, and we read excerpts from the author s notes from his book in progress, old letters and other documents There is a wealth of detail about the settings and locations, and all the characters and events come to life very clearly through their thoughts and emotions, and through their actions viewed through Faith s viewpoint, but their secrets remain well concealed.
It appears that Vera has killed view spoiler her half sister, the beautiful, the perfect Eden, hide spoiler Amazing books, A Dark Adapted Eye By Barbara Vine This Is Very Good And Becomes The Main Topic To Read, The Readers Are Very Takjup And Always Take Inspiration From The Contents Of The Book A Dark Adapted Eye, Essay By Barbara Vine Is Now On Our Website And You Can Download It By Register What Are You Waiting For Please read And Make A Refission For You More later, but in my opinion, this is Rendell Vine at her very best It s also one of the most powerful stories she s ever written, and I ve read most of them so I feel okay about making that statement.
When a journalist contacts Faith Severn in the interest of writing a book about the execution of her aunt Vera Hillyard, Faith slowly reveals and unravels the story of the Hillyard family complete in it s complicities and claustrophobias After her parents death, Vera leaves her young son and military husband in the care of others and undertakes the role of mother to her younger sister, Eden Vera and Eden s relationship is extremely close and secretive, often excluding all other parties Living in virtual isolation during World War II, Vera makes Eden her top priority and constant concern, and becomes a profoundly obsessive and controlling woman It s here that Faith spends many vacations and holidays, enduring Vera s casual cruelty and myriad insecurities while secretly idolizing the young and beautiful Eden As time moves on and Faith grows older, she witnesses multiple changes in Vera and Eden s relationship, the return of Vera s son, Francis a merciless young man , and Eden s eventual flight from the nest Even so, things are not what they seem in the Hillyard house, and the family secrets will eventually spark an explosive, painful conclusion that leaves the reader sorting through the myriad clues to find a definitive answer to this intensely satisfying psychological thriller Is Vera s madness really self induced, or does it come from a sinister direction What are the circumstances behind her execution, and what part does her family truly play This was a fascinating and, eventually, quite devastating book The author has a way of laying out the story and prose in a quietly thorough way, keeping the disquieting elements couched within the normal everyday attributes of a wartime family Knowing that a murder had occurred but not knowing the circumstances surrounding it, nor even who the victim was, was a particularly interesting way to tell this story The technique had me reading with trepidation to discover where the cracks would appear, and how the murder would eventually take place The story has an aura of foreboding attached to it, it was ominous from it s skeleton to it s details, haunting in a wonderful way Because Vera was not a particularly pshycopathic person, the murder behind her execution seemed all the interesting Yes, she was restrictive and cold, and it was very clear that she was also repressed and secretive, at times she could be embarrassingly hysterical, but her character also seemed to be very controlled and conscious of propriety and modulated Reading along I became convinced that this murder was an act of desperation and madness, instead of an act of calculated cruelty.
In fact, all the characters in this book were exquisitely portrayed From the obnoxious and perverse Francis to the furtive and beautiful Eden and the reluctant and inquisitive Faith, each character was finely detailed and and exceptionally rendered It felt like I knew these people, knew how they would react, where their buttons were and could see what would push them There was a tremendous amount of exposition given over to these characters, a lot of time spent on the mundane and everyday, but it was far from boring In fact it was a very illuminating and clever way to get the reader invested in the drama of the storyline, and the eventual destruction of a family.
The story dealt with many sensitive issues, and without giving away the mysteries of the story, it would be hard to touch on and identify them all, but the one that stuck out was the repression and emotional constraint of those in England during that time It was evident in Vera s entire character, in her sister Eden s choice of lifestyle, and eventually in Faith s reticence to tell the story of her aunt Repression ran like a thick vein down this haunting and dark story.
Another thing that I liked about this story were the atmospheric touches There was much discussion of war time rationing and the procurement of luxurys items, such as food and cosmetics, during the lean times of war I thought this was an interesting touch that gave the story believability and flavor It seemed that the author accounted for all the variables in this time period and those minute touches really amplified the credibility of the story.
The conclusion of the story was also handled brilliantly It skipped the exposition and definition and instead recounted and laid bare all the facts for the reader to deduce the motives and culpability of this murder By doing this, it refrained from passing judgment on the killer and let the reader see that there was to the story than just the black and white of the slaying As in some real life murders, the details were murky, the facts sometimes cloudy One could almost discount Vera s madness and responsibility, could see from the facts alone that she was vindicated Almost And in the end, that is what this story came down to The confusion and reaction of a somewhat normal woman, spurred into to a hideous act that forever changed the landscape of her family s life.
If you can t tell by now, I thought this book was superb It had an intensity and control that I truly appreciated I loved the meandering way that the story was fleshed out, and felt that in this way the suspense was built into an almost unbearable measure I had heard so many good things about this book, and was so excited to read it In no way did it disappoint Though it is written by a mystery writer, this book is of a psychological suspense story A very intelligent and thought provoking read Strongly recommended.
Imagine driving down a country highway The posted speed limit is 55 and you are stuck following a vehicle traveling at 40 You pull off on an alternate route hoping to speed the drive up Unfortunately you find yourself now traveling behind a combine going 30 You can t deny the landscape is beautiful and that your car runs well is a bonus That, however, does nothing to alleviate the frustration of such a slow ride Distracted, you get lost, and finally forget where you were heading.
That was my experience reading A Dark Adapted Eye It was not very suspenseful There were too many characters to remember There was a murder and a murderer announced at the novel s opening That the book was well written did nothing to enthrall me, it only made the passing of miles tolerable.
Most mysteries begin with a dead body This one begins with a hanging of the murderer Who was murdered is not immediately apparent In fact, not only is the victim unknown, the usual facts about a murder are entirely unknown to the reader when, where, how, why While the reader with only a minimal imagination can determine the probable victim, the remainder of the facts are left unknown until the last 25 30 pages.
The story is told in the first person, but the narrator knows a lot of information Barbara Vine manages to create tension in the way she tells her story Although at first I wasn t even certain of the narrator s gender, that she is the niece of the murderer is soon clear In this position, she knows all of the players, as this is most certainly a family story There is memory There are old letters and photographs The time line switches from before the murder to the present, which is some 35 years after the murder, and also to a few incidences between times This reader was never allowed to feel secure in knowing or understanding the family dynamics.
I knew I had read Barbara Vine before, but see that it is only her The Chimney Sweeper s Boy that is on my read list I see by my review the Why is also the big mystery in that one also I like this psychological delving Though I thought this one started a bit slowly, I became immersed in the story My top rating for this genre is 4 stars and this just crosses that barrier.
Wow what an introduction to Ruth Rendell Barbara Vine I suppose this would be considered a psychological suspense mystery, where the suspense is maintained throughout the novel even though the reader knows very early that a murder has occurred and a murderer has hanged So many have reviewed this book that I don t feel the need to say much but, if you haven t yet read any of this series as I hadn t , run to your library or bookstore and begin Since this is the first of Rendell s books writing as Vine, it seems a good place to start Now I have to read and then some of her Rendell books I have to thank those who suggested and seconded I read Barbara Vine books.
There s a running joke between me and a friend of mine about jazz music We d be out at a club or jazz festival, and once the music moves into an obscure fusion phase, he d lean over to me and say, See, here s where the music gets too smart for me.
I had a similar feeling after finishing this novel There were far too many characters to keep track of and I actually had to write down on a piece of paper the family tree to have any hope of continuing to read forward While I admire her for coming up with such a convoluted web, ultimately I found the novel a chore, with zero payoff.
Thank goodness this is not the first novel I had read by Ruth Barbara because this one would have surely turned me off her reviewers love this one, which is why I read it, but maybe this one was just too smart for me.
It is not a fast moving novel, but one of subtlety and careful, deliberate attention to details This is the story of an English family, traced through the 20th century and their attitudes toward class and status Their rituals, manners and secrets all lend import to the narrative Typically, Vine deftly interwove their psychological flaws, creating a sense of tension for the reader Her character development was vivid and compelling, although it was often confusing to keep track of individuals.
Life during WW II was so well depicted, one could sense the suffering and privation that people in England were experiencing Vine describes in vivid detail the efforts that women made to recreate worn clothing into fashionable, acceptable attire One could also easily sense the fear and frustration the people felt during the bombings in London.
The narrative makes it clear in the introduction that a murder has been committed, but it is not until the riveting, stunning conclusion that all becomes clear Vine has expertly described throughout the book what may drive humans to madness and murder.