Friday, 25 July 2014

A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine

Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell
I love Ruth Rendell's books. Some year's ago I discovered Barbara Vine and it was with great satisfaction I saw that this is a pseudonym for Ruth Rendell. She took up this pen name in 1986. The author explained to the National Post that "the two distinct bylines offered the opportunity to hone two distinct voices. The works published under her real name feature more 'excitement' and 'sensation' while the works published under the pseudonym 'don't have any sort of mystery in them, they don't have any revelations, really. They're just really about people.' She also said she used Vine to explore specific topics, like the evolution of morality."

Dark adaptation: a condition of vision brought about progressively by remaining in complete darkness for a considerable period, and characterised by progressive increase in retinal sensitivity. A dark-adapted eye is an eye in which dark adaptation has taken place. 
James Drever, A Dictionary of Psychology

I don't know if I agree that her books (as Vine) has no mystery in them or any revelations. They don't have in the sense that it is not a murder mystery, although death is often involved. Her books - from what I can understand checking a few of them - starts in present time and goes back to solve a family secret, or something that happened a generation ago. I think I read a book of hers many years ago but can't remember the title. I read Blood Doctor a couple of years ago which I absolutely loved. Needless to say, I also loved this book.

Faith, is the woman who tells this story. Thirty five years earlier her aunt was hanged for killing her sister. Now a writer wants to look into the story and background to write a book. He contacts Faith and the rest of the family for background information. Most of them are not willing to reveal anything, the whole thing being a black spot in their family. However, Faith is interested in why it was all done and she tells the story from her point and also include new information from family members.

It is a really exciting book and difficult to put down. The sisters, both dead by now and the murderess' twin brother (Faith's father) all seem quite peculiar. It is not only until the very end you understand the whole underlying frustration and relationship between the two sisters, and how it could all happened. It is a must read and an easy summer read that keep the suspension until the end.

She includes some literary references in the book which I would like to quote here.

"It is said of the novels of Jane Austen how remarkable it is that while giving an accurate picture of the social life of her day she chose so thoroughly to ignore the war in which Britain for a greater part of her life was engaged, to omit entirely mention of the Battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo."

"My father's eyes are blue,' said Francis in a dead voice. The sentence sounded curiously like the opening line of a play, a lost, never-acted Chekhov perhaps."

"It's all babies, isn't it? There was Elsie's baby that never was and now there's your aunt's and there was the baby that disappeared. have you done Macbeth at school?'
It had been a set book for School Certificate - for her, apparently as well as for me.
'Macbeth is full of babies and milk,' said Anne. 'You have a look. It's really strange that a play like that which is full of horrors should have all that babies and milk stuff, isn't it?
I asked her if she had thought that up for herself or had her English mistress told her? The English mistress, she admitted. I promised to look just the same, for Vera's story was full of babies and milk, too."

"...And she looked quite different. I don't mean she looked well in the sense of being healthy. She didn't. She was thinner and paler and her face was less full. This, I thought, must be because she was pregnant. She looked different in the way rich women do. One might paraphrase that interchange between Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald and say the rich look different, they have more scope."

"And she remembers Jamie's nanny's name: June Poole. I am amazed at myself for forgetting it, for was not Grace Poole the nurse and keeper of Mr Rochester's wife? The situations were very different, of course. Jamie wasn't deranged or female or a secret, though for a while he was a prisoner, and there was no part in this drama for a Jane Eyre."

"He looks like Vera now. The Anthony Andrews look has faded, the Sebastian Flyte ambience gone."

And another food for thought:

The time would soon come, he had told me, when he would leave for good, he would never go home again. I didn't altogether believe him and anyway that time hadn't yet come and I lived in the present. That's supposed to be a good thing, you know, an ideal, according to modern psychology. Odd, because the truth is one lives in the present when the past is too bad to remember and the future too dreadful to contemplate."

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