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==Synopsis of the book:==
Teddy Brex is brought up by his parents as their only child. But far from being spoilt he grows up without love or affection. His family are not interested in him and he turns into a loner who doesn't know how to communicate with people. However his skill and despite being autistic is as a craftsman as he is able to create beautiful objects and being a perfectionist he will not stop until he is happy with what has been created.
Meanwhile Francine grows up in a very different world. Her mother is shot and killed when she is a child and Francine is found by her father later that day covered in blood and stroking her mother's hair. As a result of this trauma she is unable to speak for many months and despite the best efforts of physiologists they are unable to find the man responsible. From here on she lives in a prison, her father re-marries her psychologist Julia and Francine is allowed no freedom or time away from her parents, she is always watched and monitored by them.
As she reaches 18 having tried to loosen the cords from her father and particularly her step mother on many occasions and she keeps trying. She is excepted at Oxford University but even this does not help as they plan to move to Oxford to protect her. So she takes a year off before University and on a very rare night out with a girlfriend meets Teddy who is blown away by her beauty. Can he save her from her sad and lonely existence? Can she bring the spark of love it his life that has always been missing?
==My thoughts on the novel:==
Ruth Rendell is an author certainly as a younger man I considered was for old people. I think I got this impression because my Grandmother was always reader books from her. As a result I always considered they would not be the type that would interest me, but in the last couple of years I have tried several of her books. I have had mixed results with them with my favourite being the Chief Inspector Wexford. However when I spotted this suspense thriller in a local charity shop I knew I should give it a go.
This author for me is a phenomenon. She has already published well over 50 novels with a large percentage of these being in the Wexford series. It is the other novels from her that I have traditionally struggled to enjoy. So when I saw this one which was first published in 1998 I hoped to redress the balance.
However that was not to be the case as I found this a very average thriller. And despite the praise given to the author for this piece of work from the critics it failed to impress me and I even looked forward to finishing it so I could try something different. At think at the root of my dissatisfaction was I found it hard to believe in and so it lacked credibility for me.
Anyway back to the start, I selected this book for several reasons. First it was for sale at a very good price. Secondly, I thought the title was an intriguing one, I wondered what the author had in mind and I looked forward to hopefully a clever reason for it. In hindsight I do think it was a good one to select because there were several meanings behind it, However when I checked out the summary I was not sure I would enjoy it. That is because it talked about traditional fairy tales not something that would interest me. However I did like the spin she placed on it a modern fairy tale with a twist. Added to which I liked the idea she brought up with the very contrasting lives of the two main characters.
For me the story started in a disappointing and slow way. It told about how Teddy Grex's parents had got together and had him rather late in life. Yes it gave some valuable background on his life and how he grew up in a household without love or affection. Even at this point I found it hard to believe that no-one was interested in Teddy and he become a young man without feelings for other people. Luckily the story did not just focus on him it also brought in several other characters in different settings and I wondered how these would interact as the story developed. Again with all of this it seemed a gentle pace and I kept waiting for something to grab my attention.
I immediately felt empathy for Francine Hill after she found her mother shot when just a little girl. I wondered what effect this would have on her but to be honest it seemed to have more effect on her father and step mother as the years went by. In contrast to the other threads of the story I was always interested in what would happen to her, especially given the fact she was given no freedom or privacy. So I found that I looked forward to when the story focused on her which admittedly was about a third of the time and never too many pages away as the chapters were quite short.
There for me the story really begins to get interesting when Teddy meets Francine. At this stage I thought the story had so many possibilities I could not imagine which the author would choose. And I must admit I did like the way she took the story, although I did find some of her ideas hard to believe and accept. I will not give any of these away but at least there was plenty happening and spice in the story. On second thoughts I can't now imagine my Gran reading this one!!
It was not that the story felt dated it was more that what was happening in the story seemed wrong. The further to story went on the harder it got to believe what I was reading. Yes I think the original concepts she had were good but the chain of events that followed lacked credibility. But that said I found myself still wanting to know what would happen to the key characters in the story and how it would all end up.
The pace of the story certainly increased as the story moved on towards the conclusion. The ending of the story again took me totally by surprise and some aspects of it for me were hard to believe. For me the story was wound up too quickly I would have liked a longer more complex ending and I think by doing this it could have been a more exciting and nerve jangling conclusion. Added to which I would like an epilogue so I knew what happened next to the key actors within the story.
The two main characters in the story were Teddy and Francine. I liked these two because they were so different from each other by shared the concept of loneliness. Teddy I found I never really understood, yes he was a good very different character. I think the author very skilfully brought this from his unusual upbringing. I liked the way he often changed when he was with Francine and he would try to do things to make her happy. While Francine was a good trusting character struggling with a step mother who was increasingly losing the plot.
However it was the support characters that disappointed me. As I thought the author on many occasions had the opportunity to develop and expand some of these to only find they played a very minor role. For example when Teddy's Uncle Keith went missing no-one seemed bothered not even his own mother who just excepted he had moved without a word and did not try and get in touch with him. I thought she should be making more of a nuisance of herself and try and find out exactly where he was and contact him.
When I first picked up the book I really feared this would be a love story and quite slushy at that. However it was not really like that at all, yes it was both of the main characters first love. But it was more of them both trying to escape their pasts and build a future. What the story was rich in however was the unexpected as I never expected it to develop in the way it did, this for me was good as I never had a clue what would happen next within it. And despite little in the way of mystery it was quite a chilling and spooky tale.
For me the story was a little too short, because it was full of depth I found it quite a good story. Where the author disappointed was the quick ending to the story I thought a longer more expanded one with greater excitement should have rewarded the reader, as it was it was a bit of a damp squid.
One last twist in the story would have been good and kept the reader on their toes.
I do not think in all honesty I could recommend this thriller. That is because for my money while the concepts and ideas behind it were good it was a little hard to believe in. It was an unusual story and that was a good thing as it made for an unpredictable read. I just feel the author did not do the concepts justice and an opportunity was missed to create a real page turner.
First Published: 1998
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
© CPTDANIELS December 2012.
Price: RRP £7.99 (but £5.99 on Amazon or £5.22 via Kindle)
Length: 432 pages
Official synopsis: "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 nightmares. Teddy Brex emerges from a loveless, isolated childhood as a handsome but autistic young man. Francine Hill, traumatised 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."
My view: Although I'm 40 and a prolific reader, this is the first time I've picked up a Ruth Rendell. Perhaps because she's been going so long and I didn't really know where to start and felt beginning with the first Inspector Wexford might prove a bit of a `dated' read. So, I decided to start here - a stand-alone novel, which is then followed by The Vault (I believe this can also be read by itself, but picks up part of the story from A Sight for Sore Eyes).
I must say I'm torn as to how much I enjoyed this book. Did it keep me reading on? Yes. Did I enjoy the writing? Yes. However, I also felt that the tone of voice was somewhat twee, middleclass and dated (and I don't say this as an insult to the middle classes - I fall into that category myself!). At one point, I looked at the publication date and was surprised to see that it's 2011. This novel had the type of narrative inflection I'd assumed the Wexford novels would have. Incredibly middle England and a little bit out of step with real life and the present day. It starts in the 60s, but the two main characters, Francine and Teddy, are supposed to be modern - mobile phones are used; yet the whole feel of the novel is very past-times. I understand that due to both of their personal circumstances, Teddy and Francine have been somewhat isolated from the real world - yet there were times when Teddy (without giving anything away) was incredibly proficient and capable and other times when he was incredibly green; and these two sides just didn't seem to gel. Again, without wanting to reveal the plot itself, I was surprised by the number of `liberties' which seemed to be taken re getting away with a crime, covering it up etc. Rendell, as I've always viewed her, has to be one of the most proficient (and knowledgeable) writers when it comes to police procedure and tying up plot holes. However, I could imagine that if a first-time writer presented this book to an agent or publisher, they would be challenged on quite a few of the story strands. Overall, I get the feel that, maybe, Rendell is the equivalent of a boy band that hasn't moved with the times and is still churning out the same sound 30 years on! She's clearly a talented writer but I do wonder whether more modern, cutting-edge crime thrillers have left her in the shade and she's still turning out the types of novels she started off with. That said, for those who are die-hard fans, this may not be a bad thing.
All this aside though, I enjoyed the book. A lot of it was far-fetched - maybe quite a bit of it should have been challenged or questioned in order to provide a more `authentic' storyline. However, while many readers don't like coincidences in narratives and want things to run exactly as real life would, I am prepared to suspend my disbelief if I'm enjoying a novel. Technically, this wasn't perfect. The writing did feel dated - but I sort of enjoyed that too. I guess I would equate it to sitting down and watching Midsommer Murders or something like that; it's not anything most of us would recognise as feasible, nor does it capture what most people's lives are like - yet it's still good escapism. So, for that reason, I'm giving it three stars and I'll definitely be reading The Vault (and maybe even a Wexford!).
Based on a review I originally posted on Amazon.
The author of this book is Ruth Rendell, who is well know for her way of writing and her style of writing includes psycho thriller , murder mystery etc.. , they are pretty dark and spooky and this book most probably tops her list of best books.
The story revolves around two characters , Teddy Brex and Francise Hill , both are brought up in a abnormal ways. Teddy Brex was brought up in family who don't love him , he grows up to be a person who doesn't care for others and doesn't have friends at all. But he becomes a wonderful craftsman and has a taste for beauty and colors. He despise anyone who is not good looking and young , he thinks that world should be devoid of such ugliness and should only have things what he considers beautiful.
Francise Hill on the other hand , is a young lady , who by the good looks of Teddy Brex is attracted to him. when she is has a dark childhood, her mother was murdered , when she was in the house playing in her room. That left a big scar in her little heart , to cure this , Francise was taken to a Psychotherapist who later marries her dad and become somewhat over protective of her. She constantly remains Francise that her mother was dead and her murderer will come after Francise.
Drawn by their youths and good looks , both Teddy and Francise fall in love with each other , Francise soon realize that Teddy is bit different from other boys she has met , he practically worships her beauty and he wants to immortalize her beauty and always thinks of her. But sadly for Francise didnt know the worst part of Teddy's weird nature.
Teddy who is perfectionist and has a passion for beauty and neatness, when his parent died he decided to sell his home which he considered to be the dirtest and ugliest house in the entire country ( and indeed it is ). But his uncle stops him and tells he the truth of his father birth , which Teddy cares the least but what he cares about the fact that he cannot get rid of the house, so he kills his uncle and also kill the owner of a beautiful house which was suppose to work on , he takes Francise their and make her do things which she don't like. Francise, who is a very kind and quiet , tolerates his behavior because she has endured all these years , her step mom's weird behavior.
When things get bit tough on Francise , she asks Teddy to help her. But, Teddy who is a found a taste of killing people , quietly kills her step mom while she was sleeping and elopes with Francise. Teddy only likes Francise's beauty and he considers her to the " the Real sight for sore eyes".
I've been a fan of Ruth Rendell for some time now, but I am well aware that although most of her books are excellent, some of them are real duds. I tend to be particularly suspicious of the non-Inspector Wexford books. The last one I read, Rottweiler, was so bad I nearly gave it up half way through (which bearing in mind my threshold for rubbish is pretty amazing). This one, thankfully, is one of her better books.
The story revolves around Teddy, brought up in a family that showed no love and Francine, whose mother was murdered while she, a child at the time, was in the house. Teddy is unable to express any feelings; he despises most people who try to get close to him, but when he meets Francine, he knows that he has to possess her. Francine, charmed by his good looks and pushed into his arms by her mentally unstable stepmother, is more than happy to go along with his slightly strange behaviour.
In Teddy's desire to immortalise Francine's beauty, he comes across the house of a client that meets his obsession to find the perfect background for Francine. It also happens to have a cellar, where he hides the body of the client after he has murdered her, as well as the body of his uncle. Unaware of this, Francine is more concerned with escaping the clutches of her stepmother, who is terrified of losing Francine. Will Francine find out what Teddy is really like before it is too late? Or will she end up dead in the cellar too? And will she ever find out the truth about her mother's murderer?
One thing Ruth Rendell can do well is to create psychologically unstable characters who are completely realistic at the same time. Teddy appears to have no feelings for anyone, apart from Francine. He has relationships with people so that he can get what he needs out of them; this is, after all, the way he was treated as he was growing up. There is something very chilling about the way that he sees the world in his own particular way and there is never any doubt that his relationship with Francine will be anything other than abnormal. I think the sign of a good book is when you can still remember it years after having read it for the first time; in this case, Teddy stands out for me as one of the creepier characters I have come across.
Francine does not stand out as much, but she is still a very interesting character. Having found her mother murdered as a young child, she didn't speak for months and has always had the need for closure at the back of her mind. In her Gap year, she is horrified to discover that her stepmother and former psychologist is beginning to lose her mind and her desire to escape from a situation she can do nothing about is strong. Rendell just manages to cling on to reality with Francine; it is hard to believe that many girls in her situation would not be aware that there was something terribly wrong with Teddy, but because of her background and age, it is just about okay.
Teddy's client, Harriet, who he murders so that he can live in her house, is a slightly odd addition to the book. Harriet and the house in which she lives was painted by a famous artist in the 1960s and we follow the story of Harriet's life as a sub-plot. I didn't really see the point in all this and would have preferred to concentrate on the main story rather than have to keep dipping into someone else's life all the time.
I thought the ending of this book was particularly good. The problem with police procedurals, like the Wexford books, is that you pretty much know that the bad guys are going to get caught in the end. With this book, there is no such knowledge and it really did take me by surprise as I read the last few pages.
This is more of a psychological thriller than crime fiction, so if you don't like thrillers, you're probably not going to like this. Otherwise, it is a pretty good addition to anyone's reading list. It doesn't have the shock factor of Stephen King's or Thomas Harris' work, but it is also far more realistic and because of that, scarier. Recommended.
The book is available from play.com for £5.49. Published by Arrow, it has 417 pages. ISBN: 9780099271451
This is a scary but compelling psychological thriller about two unfortunate flawed people. The 'sight for sore eyes' is the beautiful Francine Hill, who has never recovered from the childhood trauma of her mother's brutal murder, and is now at the mercy of an over-protective stepmother. A chance meeting brings her face to face with a young man her age, Teddy Grex, autistic, unloved by his parents, poorly educated, but a skilled craftsman - and a murderer. He becomes totally obsessed with Francine in an oddly distant, cold-hearted way, and makes it his mission to rescue her from an oppressive home life. But it does nothing to prepare either of them for a happy-ever-after existence. - quite the opposite, in fact. I found the novel oddly disjointed for the first few chapters, especially as the two main characters seemed to have no connection whatsoever. Not until I was over a quarter of the way through did it all become clear. If you've never read a Ruth Rendell before (and this was my first), do persevere with it, for once the characters meet, the story really clicks into place. Also it says much for the author's characterisation that it invites some sympathy for the hapless if menacing Teddy. It's a chilling, unsettling tale that will really have you turning the pages towards the end.