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3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 14 September 2017
If you are a Barbara Vine fan, this will not disappoint. I loved the main characters, but they are far from lovely, classic Barbara Vine. The plotline is topical, but with clever period flashbacks. Perhaps a little wordy towards the end, but I really didn`t guess the ending! Having read just about everything she has ever written, both as Vine and/or Rendell, I would rank this as one of her best.
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on 2 June 2017
Good characterisation of lead character Ursula the wife ignored by a husband infatuated with his daughters. I guessed that Geralds secret pretty early on so I found Rendells clueing laborious. No her best but good writing
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on 20 April 2017
A good read about a very disfunctional family.
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on 18 August 2015
This is the 1st novel I have read by this author and I was captivated by it from the first page hope to read more.
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on 7 August 2017
A good book with a snappy start and strong characters. Very long winded with lots of twists and turns, but a fabulous ending which was the highlight of the story and explained it all.
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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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on 17 January 2003
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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on 14 May 1999
Vine is one of my favourite authors but this was immensely disappointing. The "mystery" was predictable, the characters unlikeable and uninteresting, the plot unbelievable. Vine writes brilliantly about jealousy, obsession, and the psychology of relationships and she evokes places and atmosphere beautifully, but her weakness has always been endings. They have always seemed too neat, too contrived. The absurd (and completely predictable) ending of this book, however, must be one of her worst.
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on 25 October 1999
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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on 14 December 2007
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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