Tag Archives: Ruth Rendell

14: The Water’s Lovely

The Water's LovelyThe Water’s Lovely by Ruth Rendell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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This one’s been lurking on the shelf for a while. Found at the library book sale, April 2010:

VPL Spring Book Sale

The Water’s Lovely was more like her Barbara Vine books than the other ones she’s written as Ruth Rendell. The Rendell books tend to be more police procedural; the Vine books more psychological thriller. This one’s not a thriller, exactly, but it’s more of a psychological mystery than a procedural one.

Previously on The Remainder Table… I wrote about Rendell’s An Unkindness of Ravens and Not in the Flesh and Vine’s Grasshopper. I’ve read some other Vine books, but that was before I started these posts.

Twenty-something Ismay shares a house with her younger sister, mother, and aunt. She and her sister live in the downstairs flat; her mother and aunt upstairs. Her mother, Beatrix, is mentally incapacitated and Beatrix’s sister, Pamela, has essentially given up her life to be her caregiver.

Precipitating Beatrix’s mental decline was the death of her second husband, Guy. Beatrix (prior to losing her mind) and Ismay both think Ismay’s sister, Heather, killed him, though there’s a possibility his death was accidental. But, they’ve never asked her or discussed it and so it’s festered for over a decade. It’s clear Ismay thinks her sister is not all there and has appointed herself Heather’s ‘companion.’

Ismay has a boyfriend, Andrew, who is an asshole. (But she’s in love…) Andrew looks like Guy, who Ismay had a crush on as teenager before he was possibly murdered! Things start to unravel when Heather starts dating Edmund. Ismay frets about whether he should know about The Secret. Andrew goes off the rails when Edmund starts staying overnight because he doesn’t like having to put clothes on before he goes to the bathroom in the night because he’s a psychopath.

There’s a cast of wacky supporting characters who are pretty entertaining. The ending isn’t particularly surprising, but I don’t think it’s meant to be. I think the story is more about what people will do—and what they will willfully choose to ignore—for the people they love, and how these actions can be both selfless (to protect the other person) and selfish (so they won’t lose the person they love / end up alone).

16: Not in the Flesh

Not in the Flesh by Ruth Rendell

This was also from the library book sale. Yes, I read two Ruth Rendells in a row. Mysteries are just so cozy and comforting. Even with all the dead bodies 😉

Not in the Flesh had a weird juxtaposition with An Unkindness of Ravens. AUoR was all about typewriters; NitF was all about computers! As in, transferring records to them, getting used to using them, etc. Just kind of funny.

This was also an Inspector Wexford mystery, so had many of the same characters from AUoR. The main plot involves the finding of two long-dead bodies (not at the same time. first one, then later the other). Despite a large cast of quirky characters, the plot in this one wasn’t that difficult to figure out.

There was also a side plot about Somali immigrants and female genital mutilation, but unlike the social  issue in AUoR (feminism), which was integrated into the plot, this wasn’t tied into the main plot at all as far as I could see.

15: An Unkindness of Ravens

An Unkindness of Ravens by Ruth Rendell

Picked this up at the library book sale earlier this year.

This was my first Ruth Rendell writing as Ruth Rendell book, but I’ve previously read several of her Barbara Vine books: Grasshopper, The Chimney Sweeper’s Boy, Asta’s Book, and No Night is Too Long.

The Unkindness of Ravens was a standard police procedural, featuring a bunch of characters who are apparently regulars, including the main detective, Chief Inspector Wexford.  The Barbara Vine books are more dark, psychological thrillers. I think I prefer those, but this was an entertaining mystery nonetheless. I do love police procedurals.

Anyhow, the plot involves a husband who’s vanished (things aren’t what they seem… naturally!) and a group of militant feminists (really!). It was written in 1985, and a typewritten note / typewriter is one of the clues, so there was a somewhat amusing discussion of the idiosyncrasies of typewriters.

A bit of an aside, but that ties into something I was thinking about recently. You know how people always say technology immediately makes a book/movie feel “dated”? You know, in a pejorative way. I don’t think that’s always the case. I think 20-year-old books/movies that were set in present-day and used present-day technology (at the time) don’t feel “dated.” It’s more like… they feel like period pieces. The technology is right for the time period, so it doesn’t stand out particularly. Or, you notice it but in huh, I’d forgotten/didn’t know that kind of way. That’s how this book felt.

Where technology does end up feeling really dated is in books/movies that are supposed to be set in the future. Yeah, 20 years later, that’s almost always hysterical.