Wednesday 23 September 2020



In traditional fairy tales the handsome prince rescues the beautiful princess from her wicked stepmother, and the couple live happily ever after.

But in Ruth Rendell's dark and damaged contemporary universe, innocent dreams can turn into the most terrible living nightmares.

Teddy Brex emerges from a loveless, isolated childhood as a handsome but autistic young man. Francine Hill, emotionally and mentally scarred by the murder of her mother, grows into a beautiful young woman, who must endure the overprotectiveness of an increasingly obsessive stepmother.

Teddy Brex does ride to her rescue, but he is a man who has already committed two murders. In Rendell's dark criminal London, can anyone be trusted?

A Sight for Sore Eyes is one of those books I picked up years ago because of the author's reputation
and because the blurb sounded good, but which I shelved with probably little or no actual inclination to read it. A Goodreads challenge and the need for a Ruth book, had me dusting it off.

I'm quite glad I did as I really liked this, even though for long periods here, nothing very much seems to happen at all. It's more a book about damaged people, their relationships, the people they cross paths with and for two of the main characters in the book - Teddy the sort of boyfriend and Julia the stepmother - the need to exercise control over Francine. Francine, herself seeks normality and a life like everyone else's. Best of luck with that ambition.

Despite a couple of matter of fact murders, there's a lot of mundane and everyday life in the book. Routines .... college, art, shop working, waiting, obsessing, decorating, grandmother visits, travel, etc etc.

There's a lot of sadness and pain in the book and despite several of the characters being unsympathetic, I felt quite sorry for them. Teddy, the unintended consequence of a couple of feckless parents. Ignored and neglected from conception to birth, through childhood and into adulthood. Small wonder he turned out how he did. Julia is less worthy of our sympathy. Outwardly, more "normal" than Teddy, she has fewer excuses for her irrational behaviour. That said people don't choose mental illness with unconnected circuitry and faulty with with a resultant inability to see the world from another person's perspective.

Murder, unintended death, sad family histories, an abdication of parental duty x 2, other significant characters with an influence over our main players and the direction the story takes, and a certain closing of the circle at the end of the book.

A long book but well worth it and once I was invested in the story, it didn't seem very long at all.

4.5 from 5

I've a few more loitering on the shelves from Ruth Rendell and a couple of her alter ego Barbara Vine books. I must make the effort to give them a read. King Solomon's Carpet was enjoyed a few years ago.

Read - August, 2020 
Published - 1998
Page count - 432
Source - owned purchased copy
Format - paperback


  1. Rendell really was a talented writer, Col. And she was prolific! This is one I admit I've not read, but I've heard of it. I like her focus on psychology, and the way she builds suspense without resorting to a bloodbath. Glad you enjoyed this.

    1. Agreed Margot, I ought to make the effort to read her more often. I think you might like this one.

  2. Although I don't usually read standalone novels by Rendell, I read this one because one of the Wexford novels was a sequel to this one. They were published twelve years apart. I thought this was a good novel but much too psychologically tense for me.

    1. It is very tense isn't it? I only found out afterwards that there was a sequel, The Vault. I'll be keeping an eye out for it.

  3. I started to scroll back through your blog Col to see how long it would take me to find an author I'd read. Ruth Rendell was the first I came to. I guess I've managed 5 or 6 books since September. I gave up counting yours. Do you sleep?

    1. James, thanks for stopping by. I manage to get enough sleep thankfully! I do like my books though.