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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where can I score some ChocOrange?
Recent Ruth Rendell novels have disappointed some of her long-time fans. These novels are not as tightly plotted and are often more slice-of-life looks at odd characters and how their lives intersect. In PORTOBELLO, this trend has reached the maximum: there is no over-arching plot, but an episodic set of character studies linked by ironic coincidence.

A lot...
Published on 28 April 2010 by Kindle Customer

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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Has Rendell stalled?
I agree with Amber...I was also disappointed. When I reached the end I had one of those 'Is that it?' moments so went back and re-read a few sections convinced I must have missed something. As ever, it's beautifully written and the characters are perfectly formed but not at all what I've come to expect from Ruth Rendell. It's neither a murder mystery nor a psychological...
Published on 16 Jan 2009 by Claire


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where can I score some ChocOrange?, 28 April 2010
This review is from: Portobello (Paperback)
Recent Ruth Rendell novels have disappointed some of her long-time fans. These novels are not as tightly plotted and are often more slice-of-life looks at odd characters and how their lives intersect. In PORTOBELLO, this trend has reached the maximum: there is no over-arching plot, but an episodic set of character studies linked by ironic coincidence.

A lot of readers will prefer her earlier works, with their intricate plotting, but I like the new flavor as much as the old. Her prose is still instantly compelling, her quirky characters endearing and maddening, and the stories are as absorbing as ever.

In this one, I particularly enjoyed the character who becomes addicted to a low-calorie sweet, obsessing over it to the point where it interfered with his work and relationships. Rendell paints a convincing portrait of addiction, with the added irony of dependence on a substance that is supposedly guilt-free.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one and look forward to reading it again. I still love the old classics, but I think Rendell has made a wise decision not to try and write the way she did 20 years ago. Her more relaxed approach may not be as popular with some, but I find it just as entertaining as her older style, and look forward to more books in this vein.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Queen of Psychological Suspense returns with an excellent standalone thriller..., 18 Nov 2008
By 
G. J. Oxley "Gaz" (Tyne & Wear, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Portobello (Hardcover)
In the mid-70s, Ruth Rendell published a short psychological novel entitled `A Demon in my View'. This slim masterpiece was sad, seedy, and concerned the creepy characters and goings on in a boarding house. She revisited similar themes in the recent `Thirteen Steps Down' and now once again in this novel where three properties (including a boarding house) provide the focal point for much of the action.

All of the main characters live on or within touching distance of Portobello in London - hence the title - and the book explores how their lives intersect with one another.

Eugene Wren, art gallery proprietor, lives in a well-to-do area which he comes to share with his fiancée Ella Cotswold, a medical doctor. One day he comes across a sum of money and advertises his find (without stating the exact sum) on a local telegraph pole in an attempt to find its owner. Lance, a young unemployed and unemployable burglar, decides to chance his arm at conning the cash out of its finder.

Unfortunately for Lance, by the time he calls round, Eugene knows the identity of the real owner - Joel Roseman - a young man who's currently recovering in hospital from a heart complaint. The socially isolated Joel subsequently engages Ella as his private doctor, and she visits him a few times at his property, a handsome dwelling but kept in a shabby, darkened state by its incumbent. This is all paid for by the obscenely rich father who's ostracized him for years because of a family incident. As the book progresses Joel's mental health deteriorates alarmingly.

Lance's uncle Gilbert Gibson (Uncle Gib) - an ex-jailbird who's now deeply religious - owns a run down property half a mile away from Eugene. He rents out rooms to his burglar nephew Lance (burglary is the family trade), and later to a barely-seen immigrant, who nevertheless becomes an integral part of the plot.

Although Eugene and Ella seem like the perfect upper-middle class couple, Eugene has his own 'dark' little secret...

The book title is ironic in that Portobello is famous for its bright, breezy, bustling market, and Rendell deliberately contrasts this with the empty, sad or grey lives of most of her major characters.

It features several outstanding passages that describe what it's like to be mentally ill, or ostracized, or in the grip of a strange obsession. Dame Ruth does sad, creepy individuals with obscure motivations better than almost any living writer. The novel also contains deliberately understated scenes of violence, that hit home without being visceral.

Of course there's so much more to the book than I've indicated: it's a study of the impact of chance and coincidence on the lives of a set of very disparate individuals. I don't feel I'm spoiling it when I point out that for once, everything ends well (though not in ways you'd expect) and is an illustration of the redemptive power of love. Even crime queens have their sentimental moments!

Rendell has hit a rich vein of form recently with the previously mentioned `Thirteen Steps Down' and `The Water's Lovely' being outstanding reads. Unfortunately she suffered a minor blip with last year's disappointing Wexford novel, 'Not in the Flesh' which was readable but a little clichéd. Happily `Portobello' is once again, top-notch entertainment. As Barbara Vine she published `The Birthday Present' a few scant months ago. She was 78 years old this year, and no one should be able to write as well, or prolifically as this at that age!

This is a compelling novel and a great study of psychologically damaged and/or disadvantaged people. Told in her usual elegant, spare prose this is very definitely recommended and just fails to get the maximum 5 stars. I make it a 9/10, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Has Rendell stalled?, 16 Jan 2009
This review is from: Portobello (Hardcover)
I agree with Amber...I was also disappointed. When I reached the end I had one of those 'Is that it?' moments so went back and re-read a few sections convinced I must have missed something. As ever, it's beautifully written and the characters are perfectly formed but not at all what I've come to expect from Ruth Rendell. It's neither a murder mystery nor a psychological thriller and the strapline 'Our darkest fears can hide in the brightest places' seemed to bear no relation to the plot. There's absolutely nothing sinister in an addiction to sugar free sweets! Joel was probably the most perplexing character but even he was more manipulative than menacing.

I used to live in Ladbroke Grove and aside from recognising some of the roads and landmarks didn't feel that helped me engage with the story in any way. The characters were brilliantly crafted and believable so in that sense the hard work was done for you but this was really an exercise in people watching. The ending was all too neat and convenient; it was almost as though Ruth's writing time was up so she suddenly had to tie up all the loose ends in a rush.

Perfectly readable as it's so well written but this is no classic Rendell mystery. Also, there's an annoying continuity error in the last 10 pages re: Ella's birthday, which made me think that even the proofreader must have given up before the end! (Some of the key events take place on 14/15 August which is Ella's 40th birthday; later this is referred to as Sept 15 (p. 268) but by p. 277 it's back to August). That bugged me!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More About Six Degrees of Separation than Mystery or Suspense, 2 Sep 2011
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Portobello (Paperback)
"Your wickedness affects a man such as you,
And your righteousness a son of man." -- Job 35:8 (NKJV)

Portobello is an eloquently written novel built around wanting to demonstrate how much we affect one another's lives through simple decisions and small contacts. While we tend to see ourselves as firmly in control of our lives and our fate, it isn't necessarily so. Part of Ms. Rendell's subtext is to suggest that those who are better off materially may, in fact, be more pitiful than their poorer counterparts who make the best of whatever hand has been dealt them.

Because of the heavy slant towards portraying how "neighbors" affect one another, the details of the story seem almost beside the point at times. That approach doesn't make for the most compelling story, but rather gives the reader room to re-examine his or her own life.

I must admit that I found the physical descriptions in the book to be stunningly well written. The character development seemed shallow and not-quite credible in comparison. As a result, the story didn't quite convince me to suspend my disbelief.

If you enjoy stories that make you identify with one or more of the characters, you probably won't like this book as much as I did.

If you are a Ruth Rendell fan, you may be a bit disappointed in comparison with her earlier works.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars My least favourite Rendell - and I am a huge fan, 15 Feb 2011
This review is from: Portobello (Paperback)
I agree with the other reviewers who had an "is that it?" moment at the end of this book. I adore Ruth Rendell and I have read more or less everything she has written, but this was slow and rambling. I get it, it's about lives in a small area of London being inextricably intertwined, but ultimately there was no climax, there was no satisfactory ending - and I wasn't gripped while reading it. Usually I can't put her books down. Portobello is readable and the characters are well observed (although again I agree with other readers that the Chocorange addiction causing a relationship break-up was a bit far-fetched) but I kept waiting for something to happen.....and it didn't. I can't bring myself to give two stars for any Ruth Rendell book, but it's not worth any more than three, unfortunately.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Book Unsure of Itself, 27 Oct 2010
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Portobello (Paperback)
I read a fair amount of crime fiction, and tend to favor British crime fiction over that from my native country. However, I'm fairly sure I've never read anything by Rendell, who is widely acknowledged as one of the genre's current masters. So I picked up her latest in an attempt to see what all the fuss is about. The book uses that kind of loose "intersecting lives" form that was in vogue in the film world 5-10 years ago (the most immediate example being the vastly overrated Crash). The story takes place in the titular London neighborhood, zooming in on the lives of a wealthy middle-aged art dealer and his doctor girlfriend, a rather stupid and callow unemployed young hoodlum and his ex-girlfriend and nasty sanctimonious ex-con uncle, and a very strange young man who spends most of his life barricaded in his dark apartment.finally,

As is the format of these kind of things, the lives of these six characters come together by coincidence and then intersect with and influence each other in direct and indirect ways. However, the entire enterprise is rather adrift. It's sort of a crime story in that there are crimes (theft, burglary, arson, murder), but they aren't really the point of the story, They are merely catalysts that allow the reader to ponder the divide between the two wealthy characters and the three poor characters. The book is also a psychological thriller of sorts in the portions following the strange young man who's afraid of the light, but that whole plotline is a total dud and feels very much like a unfinished idea grafted on from some other project. The storyline involving the gormless young man contains at least the potential of being an interesting commentary on gentrification, but this weird dude who thinks an angel lives with him really doesn't fit the story at all.

Interestingly, the element that many reviewers rail against is the one piece of the book I quite liked. This is the art dealer's addiction to an artificially flavored sweet called "Chocorange" -- an addiction so powerful that it threatens to destroy his entire life. Over the years, he has addiction-hopped, from various forms of drugs to others, down to cigarettes, then to booze, and now, finally, to Chocorange. Obvious it's not a physical addiction, it's all in his head, and that's what makes it compelling, as he struggles to control and hide it. Unfortunately, that is the most interesting aspect of the story, which otherwise meanders around without the sharp twists and subtle turns I had led to believe Rendell was so expert at. It's really quite a sloppy work, Rendell seems to have muddled some of the dates in part of the plot and has a character knowing these dates without ever explaining why (or at least as far as I could tell, having gone back to reread bits to see if I'd missed a page). And the surprisingly sentimental resolution (which most readers will see coming miles away) depends on lame coincidence of one character being the patient of the art dealer's girlfriend. So -- the extraneous storyline, meandering writing, total lack of suspense, overreliance on coincidence, and mawkish ending all combine to make this a dud for me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Portobello Paranoia, 18 Jan 2010
By 
H. meiehofer "haroldm" (glasgow, scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Portobello (Paperback)
This is quite one of the strangest books I have read in some time. I really am struggling to know what to make of it.

Let us be clear what it is not. This really is not a thriller. Indeed despite the fact that it does feature some crimes it is not really part of the crime genre.

Instead, it focuses on a cast of rather unusual characters living in this small area of London. The common characteristics appear to be mildly (or in one case extremely) eccentric behaviour, a degree of paranoia with a soupcon of obsession added to the mix.

The obsessions vary from the more expected such as religious fervour to rather more unusual compulsions; sugar-free chocolate sweets. This latter leads to actions by the addict that really stretch the reader's credulity.

In all I have to say that Portobello is an unsatisfying work. I have been a fan of Baroness Rendell for many years liking both Wexford and her stand alone work. I have to say that Portobello is the worst book she has written. Whilst it is a pleasant enough read it simply does not match the rest of her work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ruth Rendell writes about Portobello, 13 Jan 2010
By 
Morganlefay (English Home Counties) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Portobello (Paperback)
I like Rendell's books because they are usually full of tension, often with a cunning twist. I found this one really disappointing. I didn't care about the characters, there is a ludicrous strand based on one of the character's growing passion for a small sweet (which is wholly unconvincing) and by the end I had completely lost interest in all the characters. But is it perhaps, as the title suggests, really meant to be more about Portobello than the characters who live there ? I'm glad I live somewhere else if so.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ignore its detractors - a MASTERPIECE, so far..., 27 Sep 2010
This review is from: Portobello (Paperback)
It seems bonkers to review a novel you haven't finished yet, particularly when the ending, according to some other reviewers, is a let-down. However, I can't leave this brilliant book undefended, even though I'm only part of the way through...
As a passionate but critical reader of both RR and BV novels, so far I can't recommend this one highly enough. It has all the subtlety and intelligence of some of her very best psychological work (The Bridesmaid, The Keys to the Street, The Minotaur, Asta's Book, Wolf to the Slaughter) but, in her portrait of Eugene's addiction, she has surpassed herself...it's extraordinary. Yes, if you prefer the more straightforward Wexfordy crime, you might not love this, but this is completely addictive, gripping, delicious fiction.
(And even if it goes terribly wrong from now on, I'd still give it 5 stars for the early chapters...)
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little disappointing, 5 Feb 2010
By 
A. Mazzotta (Chippenham, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Portobello (Paperback)
I was looking forward very much to reading another of Ruth Rendell's excellent psychological thrillers (I have enjoyed all her previous books) and although I did enjoy this one and found it fairly 'unputdownable', I was rather disappointed by the time I reached the end. I was expecting the characters to be more cleverly and dangerously interwoven but none of them really came to anything. The character, Joel, or Mithras was quite inconsequential. I think what really bugged me were the obvious errors which should have easily been picked up during editing and proof reading. The fire took place on the night of 14th/15th August. However, at the end of the book it says 14th September, which I thought, fair enough, a slight error, but then it stated 14th September again as the date of the fire (pages 363 and 373)! Also, Lance said the old lady would be away from 8th to 21st August (page 179)(how did he know this?) but she actually returned during the middle of the first week of September (page 254). Hopefully this book is a bit of a 'blip' on Rendell's part and that her subsequent books will again reach her excellent and ingenious standard.
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Portobello
Portobello by Ruth Rendell (Paperback - 13 Aug 2009)
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