2009: 61. A Sight for Sore Eyes

“They were to hold hands and look at one another.  Deeply, into one another’s eyes.”

A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell

This stand alone Rendell intertwines three disparate lives into one suspenseful, but somehow inevitable conclusion.  Teddy is an art student who, having grown up ignored and unloved in his lower middle class home, is determined to create a life full of beauty, and who thus values beautiful objects more than people.  Harriet is a former beauty who marries one of her lovers, and, having lost his affection, and turns to a series of affairs with younger men (mostly repairmen) in a self-obsessed attempt to recapture her youth.  Francine is a young woman about to go off to college.  Her mother was murdered when she was young, and her stepmother has become obsessed with the notion of protecting her from the outside world.  I really enjoyed the novel, particularly the way the three stories are individually so interesting and how they then build and intertwine.  Each story had some part that really captured my attention (the story of Teddy’s repulsively self absorbed parents, Harriet’s husband and how he fell in love with her and then quickly regretted it), but what really makes this novel is Rendell’s portrait of Julia, Francine’s monstrous stepmother.  Under the guise of protecting Francine, she takes over her (and her father’s life) and goes from smothering to psychotic when Francine tries to recapture her life.  The novel is, in many ways, a story of self-absorption, and how a solipsistic personality can wreak havoc on the world.  

Date/Place Completed: May 2009; D.C.

Categories: Fiction; Ruth Rendell Project

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017