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on 22 April 2017
I thought this book was very disappointing. Unappealing characters and no firm sense of who they are. A family tree at the beginning might have helped but the first 70 pages area miss mash of names until a belated attempt is made to try and make some sense of the family. Couldn't finish it.
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on 24 May 2015
Wonderfully evocative of the time, a sad story of people behaving badly behind fake social veneers.
Beautifully written, I didn't want it to end.
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on 12 September 2017
Good story.
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on 22 August 2017
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on 30 August 2017
Keeps you hooked right to the end - would recommend this. Love the way Ruth Rendell is able to create a sense of foreboding through the ordinary . Disappointed in ending – not sure why, somehow felt flat.
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on 4 March 2017
Vividly depicted characters, people we have probably all met. Domestic detail of war and postwar privations fascinating. Shocking story told
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on 13 May 2015
The many articles that followed the recent death of Ruth Rendell prompted me to look for this: I've read all the Wexford murder mysteries but I've never tried anything by her alter ego, and this was mentioned more than once as her best work.
Having read it I'd have to agree, and also with those critics who say that, were she not always shunted into the detective story category, it would surely have been in contention for some major literary prizes.
Narrator Faith, who takes you back in time to tell the story of her aunt who was hanged for murder, draws you into a dense, uncertain world with forensic attention to detail and character and leaves you, at the end, to come to your own conclusions about these people and their relationships. How did such a seemingly unremarkable family, so desperate to conform, produce this nightmare scenario?
The words 'dark psychological thriller' get bandied about a lot these days in connection with some very flashy, too clever by half books that often end up as Hollywood blockbusters, but this is the real thing - a superbly crafted story that sucks you in so completely that you find it hard to stop reading, and then to shake off its atmosphere when you do.
I was going to hold back a star because of the number of names she tends to throw at you, which makes for an unnecessarily confusing read, especially at the beginning. But it's one of those rare books that really lingers in the mind, one I'll probably keep coming back to over the years, so five stars - and now I'm looking forward to reading to all the other novels she wrote under this name.
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on 2 December 2011
Complicated, intricate, divinely plotted, mysterious, edgy, atmospheric, this to me is this writer's finest work. There is plot upon sub plot and characters as well developed as in the finest contemporary literature. Were it not for the fact that Barbara Vine/ Ruth Rendell is considered under the category of crime writer I think this would have been listed for a major literature award.

There is a murder in this..at least one.. and a woman is judicially hanged. The book starts off with a child, who is to grow into the main protagonist, awakening on the morning of this most certain of deaths. The story then unfolds jumping forward and back in time to see how the tragic chain of events arose and what the after effects were. In the present time a writer wants to do a book on the murderess and contacts the family to get their stories, not all want to talk,one was a babe in arms when it happened.

Much of the action takes place during the second world war and before it in rural East Anglia the sense of time and place is profound.

I have deliberately not given away much of the plot, almost anything I say would be a spoiler all I can say is I highly, highly recommend it.

If you are unfortunate enough only to have experienced this author's recent workm you are going to be totally taken aback this book is far far better than anything she has written in this century
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on 6 February 2012
An excellent read. I agree that it is a little confusing to start with - trying to work out who was who - but soon enough I found myself sucked into the plot and eager to know the whys, whens and hows! Using Faith as narrator works well, as her "dark-adapted eye" becomes used to the darkness that surrounded events allowing her to finally piece together memories from the past. The inter-weaving of the stories of the abducted girls adds more substance to the plot. The ending is the more effective since we, like Faith, are left wondering.....
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On my shelves since 1986, part of my complete collection of Barbara Vine psychological mysteries, this story is still crisp and fresh, safely encapsulated into the fifties' time warp recreated so credibly by BV/aka Ruth Rendell in her prime. I reached for it with a desire for some faded black and white movie elegance, that rainy Sunday afternoon mood. A Dark Adapted Eye is gently paced, quietly sinister, a measured reminder of the crippling, cruel consequences of being at odds with the morals and mores of that uptight time.

Faith, a quaint blend of the second Mrs. de Winter and a character from Anita Brookner, is our patiently probing narrator. She is an onlooker who was badly hurt in the crossfire, `branded' by her family association with Aunt Vera (whose name also means Faith). Vera goes to the gallows, a now barbaric seeming death, but capital punishment was still on the statute books then. What is so especially poignant and touching here is the polite, informative way in which we are told of those `different times'. Not really so long ago, within my lifetime, however the stomach churning fear of disgrace, losing face, being cast out was so terrible and true as to completely bend and deform what could have been happy lives.

BV slowly, carefully, cements the random facts into place, completing a construction so perfect, so professional, it seems that we are reading what must be a true, historical account. She builds a buttress wall of perceived and acknowledged truths; holding back the boiling, violent, animal emotions that raged behind the firmly closed doors of propriety, shoring up impossibly high moral standards. At no time are we quite sure what the conclusion will be. Midway through, another mystery is exposed, one of lost babies, little children taken from their prams, inappropriate blaming which caused dreadful damage, life long misery. This is gradually unpicked, almost by accident and forms a branch of the book that does apparently come to a probable resolution.

Expertly recreating that tight tense family atmosphere, BV has written a complicated tale which rewards rereading, she has an eagle eye for human frailty, a sympathetic understanding of the inhibition Faith felt in the presence of Vera, Francis and Eden. Faith's view point is unique and sharp, she is the one they hardly notice but yet, in the end, sorts out what has to happen quite beautifully.
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