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Posted December 24, 2000
Clodagh loved to climb. And that proved to be her undoing. For she enticed her lover into climbing with her, when still in her teens,and he was devoured by a pylon. This is the starting point of the new Barbara Vine novel. It is not clear as to why Ruth Rendell dons the mantle of Barbara Vine to write some of her best novels. What is clear however is under the psedonym of Vine, Ruth Rendell creates some of her most delightful and complex character sketches.From Vera in a 'Dark Adopted Eye' to Sander in 'Gallowglass' to Lyn in Grasshopper, Vine allows all the human frailities to give her protoganists and the supporting cast lives full of meaning and substance in a time and space that is only comprehensible to the characters at that point, but later transcends into the readers' zone, compelling them to go back to her books again and again. In 'Grasshopper', the family of friends Clodagh acquires in London, brought together by their subconscious need to climb roofs is cleverly juxtaposed against the stolid but pretencious middleclass couple cousin Max and Selina, who offer her rentfree accomodation. It is in creating paradoxes like this that Vine excels: her law abiding charachters have all the pettiness and meanness one would associate with repression, whereas others who walk the dangerous line between risk and crime show an endearing generousity. Where Vine fails to raise her present work to the standards set by some of her earlier works like 'The fatal Inversion' and 'King Soloman's Mine' is when she tries to merge the flow of Clodagh's life with her deviant friends with the rather melodramatic kidnapping of a child by his foster parents which leads to the final denouement. She falters here and the same writer who makes walking London roofs believable gets into a bit of clumsy warbling here. But despite the flaws, Grasshopper is compelling reading.In her genre, Vine/Rendell continues to be the best. If at all she has competition it is from another English genius 'P.D.James'.
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Posted October 10, 2010
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