A Sight for Sore Eyes

Review From User :

Rendell is a master storyteller. She creates stories that capture me right away. Intriguing plots involving ordinary characters in ordinary situations yet they will inevitably be pushed to commit murder. In Sight for Sore Eyes, she presents three sets of stories.First begins with Marc and Harriett who pose for a portrait in the 1960's. Marc is a rock star, Harriet, his current girlfriend. He throws her out when she repeatedly asks him if he loves her. It was the last straw. Next there's Eileen and Jimmy, Teddy, their son, and Jimmy's brother Keith. Finally, there is the story of Francine who witnesses her mother's murder when she is only seven years old. These three seemingly separate stories gradually merge into one horrific tale. Rendell weaves a puzzle and as we, the reader, try to put together the pieces, we are captivated by her ability, her understanding of human behavior and her rendering everything into a mesmerizing whole.


Nobody does North London squalor better than Ruth Rendell. Describing in vivid detail the cultural sewer in which a monster named Teddy Brex grows up, she uses hideous furniture, slovenly housekeeping habits, even his mother’s diet while pregnant to root us in the setting’s hopeless ugliness.
Expand text… In contrast, Rendell introduces people and places of stunning beauty: Francine, a mentally fragile girl who became mute after witnessing her mother’s murder; and Orcadia Cottage, scene of a famous painting that is at the center of much of the story’s anguish. “It was far and away the most beautiful place he had ever seen,” Rendell writes when Teddy–a gifted woodcrafter–first views the cottage. “The proportions of this hall, this room… the windows, the walls, the carpets, the flowers, the furniture, the paintings, all of it dazzled him.”

Teddy is another of Rendell’s frightening moral cripples, a seemingly ordinary person capable of the vilest crimes. When he becomes obsessed with Francine after meeting her at art school, we know to expect murder–we just aren’t sure when, or who will be the victim. Equally vile is Julia, Francine’s stepmother, a psychologist of such immense and malevolent ineptness that we would swear she couldn’t possibly exist if real life hadn’t taught us otherwise. Other important characters are Harriet, a faded beauty who connects the past to the present; Teddy’s uncle Keith, who first recognizes the boy’s madness; and a bright red, lovingly restored Edsel, which becomes a hearse.

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