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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ''You could find out his whole life from his novels, yet not find it out at all."
With the death of successful author and Booker Prize nominee Gerald Candless, his family, living on the fog-shrouded coast of England, has a variety of responses. His wife Ursula, who has suffered his sexual rejection since the birth of their two daughters, now in their twenties, is at last free of his domination. His daughters, both of whom have been doted upon by their...
Published on 1 Dec 2007 by Mary Whipple

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3.0 out of 5 stars Unlikeable Characters
Unfortunately it is the characters in this book that let it down. There is just no-one to like! They are all very "human" but none have any redeeming qualities to make the reader empathise with them. Gerald Candless,a successful author whose early life becomes a mystery following his death,.is arrogant and self centered. He lavishes all his attention on his...
Published 5 months ago by Hilary


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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ''You could find out his whole life from his novels, yet not find it out at all.", 1 Dec 2007
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
With the death of successful author and Booker Prize nominee Gerald Candless, his family, living on the fog-shrouded coast of England, has a variety of responses. His wife Ursula, who has suffered his sexual rejection since the birth of their two daughters, now in their twenties, is at last free of his domination. His daughters, both of whom have been doted upon by their father, are devastated, and resentful that their mother, whom their father ignored, seems far less bereaved than they are. When older daughter Sarah, a college professor and writer, has her proposal for a biography of her father accepted by a major publisher, she expects this to be a healing experience. After all, her father kept journals and drew on his experiences for plots for his books--the raw material for a memoir is all there.

When Sarah begins her research, however, she discovers that her father's identity is as dark and fog-shrouded as the coast on which they live, that his name, parentage, upbringing, early work experiences, and entire past life may not be what she and her family have always believed. As Sarah delves into the past, this novel by Barbara Vine (the pseudonym used by Ruth Rendell for her most "psychological" novels) becomes a genealogical investigation into the life of a most mysterious man. Sarah's discoveries often come with a hard price, emotionally, affecting the memories she and her sister have of their revered father but, in many ways, liberating their mother and allowing the sisters to know her in new ways.

Vine reveals the mysteries of Gerald Candless in slow increments, her careful construction allowing the reader to share in the discoveries as information comes to Sarah through her research and that of an assistant she hires to act as a detective. The characters she meets along the way, while not fully developed, are nevertheless vibrant and individualized, and they keep the reader's interest high. While Sarah's own sexual behavior fails to ring true, her mother Ursula's confusion regarding her rejection by Gerald and her behavior after his death are both poignant and understandable. Fast-paced and filled with atmosphere, this mystery and the character at the heart of it will fascinate the reader who loves mysteries based on human relationships and human failings. Mary Whipple
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling, 17 Jan 2003
By A Customer
This is the first book I've read by Ruth Rendell writing under the pseudonym of Barbara Vine. However, judging by the other reviews, it is a little different from her usual format. I really enjoyed this story and became more interested in the secret past of Gerald Candless and by the time I reached the last couple of chapters, I was really gripped as the truth about Gerald was revealed. I can understand how some reviewers may have lost interest in the story, as they were probably expecting a thriller, but I must admit that this is my kind of book. I will still try other books by Barbara Vine as I like detective and thriller books as well and, if this novel is anything to go by, I really enjoyed her style of writing.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT READ!, 27 July 1999
By A Customer
Once again, Barbara Vine has taken the genre to new heights. The first chapter was a bit boring, but I stuck with it and found myself completely taken with the characters and the mystery. Rarely does a book actually increase my pulse, but this one did so...not in the way that a horror novel does, but through anticipation of discovery and curiosity about the characters. I wanted to know what the end of the story would bring! As critics have said, Vine is a thinking person's mystery writer. I love this book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Unlikeable Characters, 4 April 2014
This review is from: The Chimney Sweeper's Boy (Paperback)
Unfortunately it is the characters in this book that let it down. There is just no-one to like! They are all very "human" but none have any redeeming qualities to make the reader empathise with them. Gerald Candless,a successful author whose early life becomes a mystery following his death,.is arrogant and self centered. He lavishes all his attention on his daughters who each grow up to have the same egoistical characteristics. Ursula, Gerald's wife roams around like a shadow without colour or a voice of her own until her husband's death. She accepts the mental abuse heaped on her by her husband with a resignation that is irritating though the author attempts to show that Ursula has some spirit on a couple of occasions and eventually she actually starts to "live."
The novel is gripping in parts but the "mystery" is obvious far too early.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 28 Mar 2014
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Excellent story, making the reader feel like an unseen observer, moving amongst the characters watching their family relationships fall apart as past truths come to the surface. Hope and Sarah's childhood was based on deceit & falsehoods, giving them a blinkered perception of themselves and the world they live in.Moral of the story?...that the truth, no matter how ugly or unpalatable, is real, and reality should be the starting point for everything.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, 26 April 2013
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Addresses many issues such as treatment of women, predjudices etc. It was somewhat predictable as to Gerald Candless's roots but nevertheless was an entertaining read.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A bit stilted, 14 Dec 2007
By 
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.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Barbara Vine's best, 1 May 2013
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This review is from: The Chimney Sweeper's Boy (Paperback)
I have given this book to so many people and they always love it. Definitely the best Barbara Vine book, though lots of the others are also excellent reads. Highly recommended.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enthralling read .... to a point, 25 Oct 1999
By A Customer
I enjoyed reading this book but did find my interest trailing off towards the end - I read most of it very quickly then read the last 20 pages a few days later. I sort of guessed what was coming. I did find the characters well drawn but also a little irritating - Sarah seems to do nothing but drink her way through the book. I found the mother's story the most interesting - her reasons for staying with a cold and disinterested husband. Yes, I was quite irritated by most of the characters. Nevertheless I enjoyed it.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shaggy Dog Story, 14 Feb 2006
By 
Rotgut "rotgut" (Warrington UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This slow, evenly paced book reminds me quite a bit of one of Josephine Tey's excellent character-driven mysteries. Unfortunately, unlike, say "The Franchise Affair",Vine's novel really does drag and, fatally, it is hard to sympathise with any of the main characters. The ending removes any chance of the reader taking the preceding story seriously.
In fact, the frankly bizarre denouement could be read as a very bad taste joke, rather a homophobic one at that, a silly and unbelievable way to end a rather lengthy book for the long suffering reader.
The best part of the book, in my opinion, is the convincing depiction of the loveless marriage between the successful author and his naive wife. Her constant hurt at his excluding her from their own marriage rings horribly true.
An unusual book, with an imaginative narrative structure, undermined by the "crime" revealed at the end. Maybe a more traditional storyline, where a murder or another serious misdemeanour is uncovered, would have worked better?
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The Chimney Sweeper's Boy
The Chimney Sweeper's Boy by Barbara Vine (Paperback - 7 May 2009)
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