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4.3 out of 5 stars47
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 23 November 1998
Reading this book is like biting into a piece of ripe fruit. Ruth Rendell's books are great partly because of their lucid complexity; she weaves two or three (or five or six) plots together. The books are best when she sticks to two or three. Rendell fans will be delighted with A SIGHT FOR SORE EYES; she avoids the mistakes of the last few years, in which she sometimes bit off more than she could chew.
This book is one of her studies of the psychopathic mind. It is also beautifully atmospheric, which is one of Rendell's trademarks. It has symbolism, red herrings, and dead bodies stashed away in unlikely places. I wish I had not read it so fast. I wishI were still reading it.
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on 21 August 1999
Once I had started I could not stop. The characters are heading towards desaster so unavoidably it is almost painful. I find her often mentally very disturbed protagonists so convincing that sometimes it is hard to tell who is really right or wrong. This is maybe the best book I have recently read.
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VINE VOICEon 16 January 2004
Ruth Rendell has been writing now for 40 years, and you'd think after the huge output she has achieved that she might be starting to go off the boil a bit, or even start getting a bit repetitive. But she is consistently coming up with the goods, again and again. "A Sight For Sore Eyes" is a leisurely tale, spanning many years, but it is absolutely enthralling.
Francine Hill witnessed her mother being shot dead in her hallway when she was a little girl. Eventually her father, riddled with guilt that he was somehow inadvertently responsible for his wife's death, marries Julia, a psychotherapist who has been struck off for being too zealous in her concern for one of her patients. Julia's excessive zeal is transferred to Francine, who she sees as a disturbed child who needs to be ruthlessly protected from the outside world.
On the other side of the tracks Teddy Grex is growing up in an emotionally-cold household, where his family barely seem to interact with each other on any kind of human level. Teddy is determined to rise above all this and make something of himself, but he doesn't realise that his family's dire upbringing of him has left a terrible mark on his soul. When he's grown up he meets Francine at college and becomes obsessed with her beauty. Francine in turn sees Teddy as a sort of knight in shining armour, someone to come and rescue her from the clutches of her overbearing stepmother.
The terrible truth is though that Teddy is a murderer who has already despatched a member of his family to an untimely death, and is to commit murder again before much more time has passed. He also doesn't want Francine as a real flesh-and-blood girlfriend, but as a sort of living statue to adore. Coming unwittingly into the plot is ex-Sixties wild child Harriet, now middle-aged and locked in a chillingly loveless marriage with a man 20 years older than herself. When she hires Teddy to make some cupboards for her she gets herself embroiled in his life in a way that she didn't bargain for!
At over 400 pages long, this isn't exactly a quick read, but there are many memorable scenes here. The last 20 pages will make your flesh creep, it's like something out of a Gothic classic. It's grisly enough for a James Herbert novel! Teddy's fate, when it eventually happens, is truly disturbing.
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on 18 October 1999
I really enjoyed this book. the tension came from the unexpected. Not from a series of murders being investigated by policemen, but rather from the interelationships between the characters. I felt sorry for Teddy, who seemed to have risen above his background only to prove to be, after all, fatally flawed.
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Concerning a pair of children who grow up damaged, Rendell has created a strongly plotted crime novel which deals with the subject of control. Though with very different backgrounds, the are both disturbed by some of their parents’ methods of bringing up children.

Teddy was a child who was never given love at all, not maltreated, just ignored, while Francine’s life was a regimen of interference and strict control. As a result they don’t exactly make a success of growing up, but for different reasons. Francine saw her own mother killed which induced a longish period of mutism. Later in life when she finds her murdered stepmother, she is again rendered mute.

It is the child who was never loved, Teddy, who is most affected and who grows up without an understanding of right and wrong. Since he is the centre of the universe to himself, he believes that whatever he wants he’s entitled to take, even when it comes to lives.

This is a very good little thriller with good characterisation (perhaps only a little simplistic here and there) a neatly finished plot and quite a few moments of creepiness and shudder. If I had a cellar I might want to have it boarded up. I liked it.
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on 14 December 2011
I am an avid fan of Ruth Rendell but usually I only read Inspector Wexford novels. I recently discovered that I should read this book before her latest release "the vault" and found it absolutely riveting. It is a standalone story which I strongly recommend. Lorraine Mulligan
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on 29 December 2012
On the face of it at least this is one of Rendell's stand alone, psychological thrillers not featuring Inspector Wexford.

Autistic Teddy Brex has been raised alone in a squalid, loveless household. When his parents die rather than inherit the house he finds himself relying on the charity of his less than sympathetic uncle.

Francine Hill is a beautiful young woman but one scarred by the unsolved murder of her mother and the over protectiveness of her step mother.

When they meet it seems as if they could rescue each other. But,unbeknown to Francine, Teddy has already killed twice and his increasingly erratic behaviour begins to put her own life in danger.

As usual Rendell brilliantly imagines the warped logic of the killers mind although I found some of it a little far fetched.

And for anyone missing Inspector Wexford - don't worry - he turns up to solve it all years later in "The Vault"
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on 15 March 2002
This novel is about Francine Hill and Teddy Grex, both 'damaged' children. Francine's mother was murdered and Teddy's childhood was a textbook example of parental neglect - it follows them into adulthood until they finally meet eachother -and then the suspence really begins to build.
It is an interesting idea that grows into a complicated, dark mystery that is rivetting. The language is beautiful and the imagery that Rendell uses really breathes life into the story. There are some excellent secondary characters, namely Julia, Francines step-mother who is the most irritating, suffocating character I have ever read - by the middle of the book I wanted to kill her! But don't get me wrong - that is the best bit about the book - it's ability to evoke real feeling in its reader. Rendells excellent ability to draw you into the book through the most insightful dialogue and imagery is unsurpassed. This book is overloaded with pschological insight, it is not one for those who like fast-paced books and can't stand plenty of description and slowly built tension. The ending is very good, all the lose ends are tied up and a subplot is also resolved in the most satisfying way.
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on 14 October 1999
This is definitely a Rendell masterpiece. Showing the sinister side of suburbia. How evil really can breed from the humblest beginnings. The idea that murder is a characteristic of the human psyche and not just a state of mind is truly enthralling. I defy anyone to read it, and not question society as we know it.
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on 13 November 1999
This is a psychological thriller with several unexpected twists. As always Rendell does an excellent job pulling together the disaparate strands of peoples' lives and weaves a compelling narrative in this story of a man's search for perfection. As often in Rendell's work the plot revolves around how seemingly random events can coalesce with tragic consequences. Rendell shows how two people from completely different backgrounds, one with a privileged private school education with an overprotective step-mother, the other educated at the local comprehensive and with parents who barely recognise his existence, come together. This is classic Rendell, and those who appreciate her work will certainly enjoy this book. However it is not Rendell at her very best. At times some of the characterisation is a little thin and on occasion even the story-line becomes a little slow. Despite this, it was still an excellent read.
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