Ruth Rendell, A Sight for Sore Eyes

£70.00

Ruth Rendell will always be treasured for her outstanding contribution to crime fiction. It is not always recognised that her writing pushed the boundaries of crime further and she inspired many to follow her into crime writing, such the late Michael Dibden and Val McDermid. This is a stand alone novel which received outstanding reviews. Our signed edition contains an appreciation by the American author of the Mallory detective novels, Carol O’Connell.

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Ruth Rendell began her esteemed Wexford police procedural series with From Doon to Death (1964). Her output has been prolific, high quality and its subject matter increasingly exposed important social concerns. Ruth kept her work fresh by alternating between Wexford and the Kingsmarkham setting and the blacker urban psychological thrillers, and from the 80s her deeper more expansive, Barbara Vine novels. The more recent stand-alone thrillers are for some critics and fans the most absorbing and devastating in impact. A Sight for Sore Eyes (1998) received outstanding reviews – that one posted by Murder Ink is not an exception.

Plotline: A Sight for Sore Eyes tells three stories, and for the longest time, the reader has no inkling of how they will come together. The first is a story of a little girl who has been scolded and sent to her room when her mother is brutally murdered; as Francine grows up, she is haunted by the experience, and it is years before she even speaks. Secondly, we become privy to the life of a young man, Teddy, born of unthinking young parents, who grows up almost completely ignored. Free of societal mores, he becomes a sociopath, who eventually discovers that killing can be an effective way to get what he wants. Thirdly, we meet Harriet, who from an early age has learned to use her beauty to make her way in the world. Bored by marriage to a wealthy, much older man, she scans the local newspapers for handymen to perform odd jobs around the house, including services in the bedroom. When these three plots strands finally converge, the result is harrowing and unforgettable. A Sight for Sore Eyes is not just the work of a writer at the peak of her craft. It is an extraordinary story by a writer who, after 45 books, countless awards, and decades of international acclaim, is still getting better with every book.

The exceptional American psychological and suspense writer of bestsellers Carol O’Connell says in her Appreciation of Ruth Rendell: “in other works beyond the detective format, she delivers you into the world of the suspense novel, rooted in Edgar Allen Poe, his pit and his pendulum”.  She recognises that it is in this broader format that the characters drive the plot. This edition was published as a signed limited edition of 99 ordinary copies and 15 deluxe for private distribution.

5.00 out of 5

2 reviews for Ruth Rendell, A Sight for Sore Eyes

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rating by Murder Ink on May 18, 2012 :

    MurderInk review
    A Sight for Sore Eyes is one of those crime novels that are also literature. It’s a grim contemporary fairytale about corrupted beauty; a twisted yet beautiful love-story about two damaged people gradually moving together, with catastrophic consequences.
    I had read several of Rendell’s books before I came to this several years ago, but this was the first one I fell I love with. Normally, whenever anyone says “I couldn’t put it down,” that’s just a stock sentence to convey some sense of the quality of the book; they don’t actually mean that they physically couldn’t put the book down. True cases are very very rare indeed, and they have little to do with physicality.
    Sometimes, though, books like this do come along, which cause you suddenly to realize it’s five in the morning and you should have slept long ago. In these cases, you and the book have actually melded, briefly, into a whole. The book is an extension of the self, so remarkable as to almost seem forged in the mind, to seem, perhaps, to be only created as you are reading it. This is such a book. A book that is so gripping, whose universe is so totally convincing that you, in a sense, become it, to the ignorance of all other external stimuli.
    A Sight for Sore Eyes is the story of the lives of a group of people, most notably Francine Hill — who was in the house while her mother was shot by a man at the door, and who hid in a cupboard, only coming out to discover the bloodied body — and Teddy Grex — a young man who comes from a squalid, loveless family, who reveres aesthetic things, beautiful objects and fine craftsmanship, and tends to ignore the fact that other people exist around him. And while, after his parents’ deaths, Teddy lives in a world of almost unlimited freedom, Francine is virtually imprisoned by her obsessive, over-protective stepmother Julia. From childhood, they grow into young adulthood, and the two damaged souls somehow find each other, with traditionally Rendellian consequences.
    This book is remarkable. It’s one of those books that words to describe simply don’t exist for. If you are a Rendell fan already, I don’t know why you haven’t already bought this. If you are new, this is probably a great place to start. It is a beautifully twisted, complex and resonant piece of work, and it displays all her talents: her sharp, ironic, Austen-esque wit; her ability to construct plots which mesh in with one another in a way that leaves your jaw dropped in admiration; her ability to draw a cast of wholly human characters, some of whom are dangerously damaged; and her ability to make the skewed logic of those damaged characters seem so perfectly plausible. Her prose style is so tempered, so plain yet beautiful, that she can convince the reader of anything she wants. We would believe, implicitly, anything she tells us.
    The story moves at such a suspenseful pace the characters collide like comets. There are wonderful touches, here; for example, in one of the final scenes the beautiful diamond ring which Teddy’s mother found in a pub lavatory in the 70’s, and served as their engagement ring, ends up once again lost and forgotten on the basin in a pub lavatory 30 years later. It is simple, but it’s beguiling, wondrous touches like this, of bringing the story of the character’s full circle, that make the book sparkle so. There’s something bizarre and twisted about it all (especially the remarkably creepy ending!), yes, but there is also something magical and beautiful lying in the ruins of the character’s psyches: something that glints like bloodstone, something that could be salvaged.
    I’ve said very little of all that could be about A Sight for Sore Eyes, but there is simply not enough space to expound upon the brilliance of this book. Too, there aren’t really enough adjectives — excellent, brilliant, etc. — to do it justice. It’s a book that should be read by all.
    A Sight for Sore Eyes is one of Rendell’s masterpieces. It is a piece of fiction so beautifully and impeccably wrought that it almost beggars belief to consider Rendell’s craftsmanship of it. Certainly, I feel sure that any Rendell fan will treasure its art, beauty and beguiling intricacy, as, probably, would Teddy”.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rating by Carol O’Connell on May 18, 2012 :

    Extract from the Appreciation by Carol O’Connell

    “Ruth Rendell’s apprenticeship began some forty odd books ago, when the prescribed standard for the Crime Genre was a tightly rendered novel of precisely 180 pages. ‘No More, No Less,’ said the publisher’s firm contract. Her famous paladin, Inspector Wexford, was severely limited by this claustrophobic early format – no room to breathe, no time to think.
    Fortunately, times change.
    The evolution of Rendell’s work followed her departure from strict dictates of the publishing business. The unfettered novels expanded in all directions. Less constricted by time and space, the characters became fully realised human beings. Inspector Wexford is now so solidly drawn, he will travel through the years with you, real as life and not a mere acquaintance. But this is more than the backstory of Wexford and how he grew.
    The police procedural is one facet of Rendell’s oeuvre that sends you, page by turning page, in search of solutions and resolution – to obtain justice and to end the tension. But in other works beyond the detective format, she delivers you into the world of the suspense novel, rooted in Edgar Allen Poe, his pit and his pendulum. The characters take on more importance than the vehicle of the story, the engine of the plot; they are the living unfolding drama, caught up in the larger schematic of life itself, as they relate to every living thing by kinship or proximity, by act or guilty knowledge.
    And they are alive”.

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