The Chimney Sweeper's Boy was the first Barbara Vine novel I'd read, although I have read several Ruth Rendalls (Vine's true persona). I found the same problem with this as with the others I'd read - a thin, stilted plot played out by two dimensional, unsympathetic characters. The story is of Gerald Candless, beloved father yet cruel, distant husband, whose daughter discovers some disturbing facts about his past while researching her memoir of his life and their relationship. The perspective switches between Sarah, the daughter, and Ursula, the neglected wife, whose memories and discoveries combine to draw a picture of the man.
So far, so thrilling. But I felt the story never really got off the ground. The plot lacked pace and, as with so many of Rendall's novels, the characters were by turns irritating and deeply unpleasant. There was no real examination of their feelings and motivations and, crucially, no satisfying conclusion - although the mystery of Gerald's past is revealed (after a clue so enormous you wonder how his apparently intelligent daughter missed it), several major issues, including Ursula's relationship with her daughters, were left frustratingly unresolved.
But for me, one of the biggest let downs was the excepts from Gerald's novels and descriptions of his plots. For someone who was supposed to be an excellent, Booker-nominated novellist, these were simply not up to scratch, which utterly destroyed the illusion.