Newest Review: ... 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 ... more
My first love
A Sight for Sore Eyes - Ruth Rendell
Member Name: CPTDANIELS
A Sight for Sore Eyes - Ruth Rendell
Advantages: Concept and very contrasting lead characters
Disadvantages: Hard to believe in, disappointing ending.
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.
Summary: Disappointing piece of fiction