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A Sight for Sore Eyes by Ruth Rendell
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A Sight for Sore Eyes (2000)

by Ruth Rendell

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7121813,240 (3.75)1 / 32
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    Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: These bleak and intimately psychological suspense novels both focus on young people with seriously dysfunctional families. Each novel employs nuanced characterization, intricately layered narratives, and a shocking climax to explore the dark recesses of the human mind.… (more)
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A Sight for Sore Eyes by Ruth Rendell
Fiction
Rendell starts off with a character whose interesting problem solving technique -- serial killing -- is not only justified, but cheerable. Halfway through the book, Rendell turns you back into a civilized human being and returns you to the right side of the law. From entertainingly creepy to sinisterly edgy, she holds you until justice is served -- a perfect justice.
Recommended by Geo, August 2004
  dawsong | Jun 12, 2015 |
I am compelled to update my review, as Dame Ruth has died. She authored many many books, and having now read two of her intelligently conceived novels, I can easily see how she was/is considered a real giant of British fiction. And I am speaking of literature at large, not only within her preferred genre. The Guardian online has some good pieces about her legacy...

//Slow burn suspense. This is my second Rendell (the other was a B. Vine book), and it's clear she takes a more precise, psychological approach to her stories than most others in the genre. This one involves a young girl who witnesses a searing tragedy, then grows to young adulthood under the (paranoid, obsessive) guardianship of her stepmother. Parallel to this is the near-raised-by-wolves life of young man whose de-sensitized, sociopathic self will intersect with hers. Oddness and tragedy in equal parts. Reminds a bit of the Ian McEwan style. Worth the read but grew a bit long for me. ( )
  JamesMScott | May 4, 2015 |
A prequel to The Vault. Explains how the bodies got in the coal bin. Masterfully written. So descriptive of a certain "type" of living, so real.
Rendell leaves no lose ends. Of course, one must read The Vault to appreciate Inspector Wexford's brilliance. ( )
  sogamonk | Jun 17, 2014 |
So, this is one of those wishy washy books...where you say to your friends "well, it wasn't good but it wasn't necessarily bad either." Like that helps, right? But honestly, I just have lukewarm feelings about this book.

This was the latest choice for my book club as we've picked our way along EW's list of 100 new classics. Since A Sight for Sore Eyes appeared on the list, you know that it is a critical darling (I just want to make you aware that my view of this book likely diverges from popular critical sentiment). So, let me just break it down in a list of pros and cons for ya:

Good Aspects:

Characterization - extremely realistic and fully fleshed out characters.
Compelling - this book is easily readable, I finished it in two sittings!
Multiple POVs done well - sometimes this can be annoying and can make a book feel choppy, not the case in A Sight for Sore Eyes.

Bad Aspects:

Yucky characters - and by this I mean, I didn't like a single character in this book! Actually, the one person who I had any small amount of sympathy for is a mass murderer!
Bad categorization - this is shelved in the mystery section of the library and is indeed touted as a mystery...why? There was no mystery to be solved so I'm really perplexed by its categorization. This threw off my expectations for the book a bit (which made me a little miffed)!
The ending - it's one of those that makes you go "ugh! really?!" I can't say anything more without spoiling except to say that it kind of seemed like the easiest and cleanest conclusion for Rendell, not necessarily the best conclusion for the story (although I can't think up an alternative).
Also, the Goodreads summary says the reader has "no inkling" of how the three storylines converge...um, not true. I realized how these three would meet up quite easily, although there were other twists and turns to keep me on my toes.

Now that you see my thoughts in list form, can you understand why I call it wishy washy? For those who love character-driven suspenseful literary fiction and don't mind a cast of truly despicable characters you'll probably like A Sight for Sore Eyes much more than I did. Otherwise, I'd probably skip it unless you're low on new books to read. ( )
  KatPruce | Jun 4, 2012 |
Teddy was born into poverty and has risen from those humble beginnings to become an extremely talented craftsman determined to banish ugliness from his life. Harriet is a beautiful, bored trophy wife who employs a series of repairmen and handymen to satisfy her sexual desires. Francine is a college student who witnessed her mother’s murder and now must free herself from the manipulative clutches of her father’s second wife. Connected by strands of pure chance, their lives intersecting in the strangest of ways, these three people will eventually come together at a beautiful, ivy-covered cottage with a least one dead body buried in the basement.

I really do enjoy Ruth Rendell as an author. I don’t actually know how many of her books I’ve read, but I generally enjoy her writing and plot style. I give this book an A+! ( )
  moonshineandrosefire | May 23, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0440235448, Mass Market Paperback)

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. 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.

Like all of her books, Rendell's latest is really about the secret acts of insanity that occur behind closed doors. Among her best books available in paperback are From Doon with Death, A Guilty Thing Surprised, The Keys to the Street, and, from the excellent Inspector Wexford series, Kissing the Gunner's Daughter, Road Rage, and Simisola. --Dick Adler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:54 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

The lives of Francine, a woman who had been an eyewitness as a child to her mother's murder; Harriet, an aging and bored beauty; and Teddy, a handsome but murderously psychopathic young man, collide in a harrowing and fateful climax

» see all 4 descriptions

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