The Child's Child

The Child's Child

3.1 9
by Barbara Vine, Ruth Rendell, Sarah Coomes
     
 

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When their grandmother dies, Grace and Andrew Easton inherit her sprawling, book-filled London home, Dinmont House. Rather than sell it, the adult siblings move in together, splitting the numerous bedrooms and studies. The arrangement is unusual, but ideal for the affectionate pair — until the day Andrew brings home a new boyfriend. A devilishly handsome… See more details below

Overview

When their grandmother dies, Grace and Andrew Easton inherit her sprawling, book-filled London home, Dinmont House. Rather than sell it, the adult siblings move in together, splitting the numerous bedrooms and studies. The arrangement is unusual, but ideal for the affectionate pair — until the day Andrew brings home a new boyfriend. A devilishly handsome novelist, James Derain resembles Cary Grant, but his strident comments about Grace’s doctoral thesis soon puncture the house’s idyllic atmosphere. When he and Andrew witness their friend’s murder outside a London nightclub, James begins to unravel, and what happens next will change the lives of everyone in the house.

Just as turmoil sets in at Dinmont House, Grace escapes into reading a manuscript — a long-lost novel from 1951 called The Child’s Child — never published because of its frank depictions of an unwed mother and a homosexual relationship. The book is the story of two siblings born a few years after World War One. This brother and sister, John and Maud, mirror the present-day Andrew and Grace: a homosexual brother and a sister carrying an illegitimate child. Acts of violence and sex will reverberate through their stories.

The Child’s Child is an enormously clever, brilliantly constructed novel-within-a-novel about family, betrayal, and disgrace. A master of psychological suspense, Ruth Rendell, in her newest work under the pseudonym Barbara Vine, takes us where violence and social taboos collide. She shows how society’s treatment of those it once considered undesirable has changed — and how sometimes it hasn’t.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
"Subtle" is an inadequate word for Ruth Rendell. So are "crafty," "cunning," "clever" and "sly." Although these are accurate descriptions of her confounding technique, a better word would be "surprising." Whatever it is you might think Rendell is up to, especially when she's writing as Barbara Vine—that's not it.
—Marilyn Stasio
Publishers Weekly
Parallel plots pivot around pregnant, unmarried women living with their gay brothers in this compelling novel from Vine (the pen name of Ruth Rendell). Grace and Andrew Eaton share a house in contemporary London, while Maud and John Goodwin are tucked away in a village in western England during the period between the world wars. Each woman tussles with the mores of her era and with her brother’s difficult boyfriend: Grace scraps with persnickety novelist James Derain, and Maud with lout Bertie Webber. Vine dissects the roots of homophobia in gay and straight alike, by period, virulence, and class. Homophobia—in a moment of pique—is what causes the novel’s most crucial murder. The Child’s Child is the title of a manuscript Grace reads, a roman à clef relating Maud’s life that forms the central narrative. The quintessential narcissist, Maud ruminates about insults the way biblical scholars dwell on ancient texts. Vine excels at depicting such characters and succeeds in making them believable—and bearable. Though not as vivid as Vine’s previous book, The Birthday Present (2008), this elegant offering clicks along like a well-tuned glockenspiel. (Dec.)
The Daily Beast
"Ruth Rendell, whether writing her mystery novels or molting into Barbara Vine and burrowing deep into réalité intérieure, has always written thoughtful novels on the consequences of our choice."
Richmond Times Dispatch
"A study of taboos of the past and the growing tolerance of the present — except when open-mindedness is absent — The Child's Child encompasses darkness and light — and simultaneously offers diverting fiction with thought-provoking but never preachy purpose."
From the Publisher
“The Rendell/Vine partnership has for years been producing consistently better work than most Booker winners put together.”

“Barbara Vine is Ruth Rendell letting rip.”

"A novel by Ruth Rendell (or her literary alter ego, Barbara Vine) is like none other..... The results are seldom what we expect them to be, and that is part of this author's special genius."

"Vine vividly conjures the high price paid by social outcasts, even in our own supposedly enlightened age."

"Just a cracking good read."

"Ruth Rendell, whether writing her mystery novels or molting into Barbara Vine and burrowing deep into réalité intérieure, has always written thoughtful novels on the consequences of our choice."

"In the hands of Vine, otherwise known as Ruth Rendell, the book-within-a-book strategy evolves into something infinitely more intricate — a sinister, constantly shifting Rubik's Cube of motives, betrayals, and violence. Grade A"

"A study of taboos of the past and the growing tolerance of the present — except when open-mindedness is absent — The Child's Child encompasses darkness and light — and simultaneously offers diverting fiction with thought-provoking but never preachy purpose."

''Subtle'' is an inadequate word for Ruth Rendell. So are 'crafty,' 'cunning,' 'clever' and 'sly.' Although these are accurate descriptions of her confounding technique, a better word would be 'surprising.' Whatever it is you might think Rendell is up to, especially when she's writing as Barbara Vine — that's not it."

"Not even fans who expect more felonies will be able to put this one down."

Evening Standard (UK)
"These last pages are as thrilling as anything Vine or Rendell has ever written. As for the rest, they are simply superb. She can make your blood boil or run cold at will."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Robert Croan
"A novel by Ruth Rendell (or her literary alter ego, Barbara Vine) is like none other..... The results are seldom what we expect them to be, and that is part of this author's special genius."
Entertainment Weekly - Tina Jordan
"In the hands of Vine, otherwise known as Ruth Rendell, the book-within-a-book strategy evolves into something infinitely more intricate — a sinister, constantly shifting Rubik's Cube of motives, betrayals, and violence. Grade A"
New York Times Book Review - Marilyn Stasio
''Subtle'' is an inadequate word for Ruth Rendell. So are 'crafty,' 'cunning,' 'clever' and 'sly.' Although these are accurate descriptions of her confounding technique, a better word would be 'surprising.' Whatever it is you might think Rendell is up to, especially when she's writing as Barbara Vine — that's not it."
Ian Rankin
“The Rendell/Vine partnership has for years been producing consistently better work than most Booker winners put together.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch
"A study of taboos of the past and the growing tolerance of the present — except when open-mindedness is absent — The Child's Child encompasses darkness and light — and simultaneously offers diverting fiction with thought-provoking but never preachy purpose."
People magazine (3 1/2 stars)
"Vine vividly conjures the high price paid by social outcasts, even in our own supposedly enlightened age."
The Daily Telegraph (UK)
“Barbara Vine is Ruth Rendell letting rip.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A novel by Ruth Rendell (or her literary alter ego, Barbara Vine) is like none other..... The results are seldom what we expect them to be, and that is part of this author's special genius.
Robert Croan
People Magazine
"Vine vividly conjures the high price paid by social outcasts, even in our own supposedly enlightened age."
Charlotte Observer
"Just a cracking good read."
Library Journal
Grace and Andrew Easton share the house they've inherited from their grandmother and live there peaceably until Andrew brings home a new boyfriend, James, whose caustic comments turn the atmosphere sour. Even as James starts coming apart after he and Andrew witness a friend's murder, Grace begins reading a lost 1951 novel called The Child's Child whose setting and protagonists uncannily echo her own situation. Diamond Dagger winner Vine punctures us again.
Kirkus Reviews
Vine's 14th (The Birthday Present, 2009, etc.) is a novel within a novel--well, within a novella, anyway--in which both tales revolve around a straight woman's unexpected relationship with a gay man. Unexpectedly pregnant after a one-night stand with James Derain, her brother's lover, Ph.D. student Grace Easton takes refuge from her troubles--her brother Andrew's cool reception to the news, his and James' involvement as witnesses to a brutal hate crime--by rereading The Child's Child, a novel written by her architect friend Toby's late father, Martin Greenwell. Although Martin had been the well-regarded author of 12 novels, The Child's Child, written in 1951, lay unpublished for half a century, unpublishable for much of that time because of its frank (for then) account of homosexual passion. The passion in question is Bristol biology teacher John Goodwin's selfless love for office clerk Bertie Webber, a love that dare not speak its name in 1929. Hopelessly besotted with Bertie, John vows to give him up in response to a crisis in his family: his 15-year-old sister Maud's pregnancy by a friend's forgettable brother. When their parents banish Maud from their home, John matches an ingenious solution to her troubles: He'll take her to his new place in Dartcombe, introduce her as his wife and shield her from reprobation. Readers would sense the impending approach of unwanted complications even if Vine weren't really Ruth Rendell (The St. Zita Society, 2012, etc.). Suffice it to say that Bertie proves miserably unworthy of John's devotion; the pressures of Maud's uneventful life have a profound impact on her character; and the brief return to the present-day story of Grace Easton provides just the right sense of balance and conclusion. The overwhelming sadness of the events in both stories is leavened by the matter-of-fact firmness with which Vine measures them out. Not even fans who expect more felonies will be able to put this one down.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781469276106
Publisher:
Brilliance Audio
Publication date:
10/08/2013
Sales rank:
1,107,425
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 5.60(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Child’s Child


  • WHILE TEACHING at a university in West London, I had been working for a PhD on a subject with which no one among my family and friends seemed to have any connection: single parents or, in the phrase Toby Greenwell had used, unmarried mothers. As my supervisor remarked after I chose the subject (and she reluctantly approved), it would be a bit absurd in a climate where nearly half of women remain unwed. So “Single Parents.” Such women in English literature was the idea, but I was still asking myself—and Carla, my supervisor—if this should be extended into life. Into reality. Would this make it too much like a social science tract?

    When my grandmother died, I had already begun reading every English novel I could find that dealt with illegitimacy or with the mothers of illegitimate children. I was living in a flat in West London that I shared with two other women and a man, a not unusual configuration in overcrowded oughties London. The day before her death I had visited her in hospital, where she had been for just a week. A stroke had incapacitated her without disfiguring her, but she could no longer speak. I held her hand and talked to her. She had been a great reader and knew all those works of Hardy and Elizabeth Gaskell and a host of others that I was reading for my thesis. But when I named them, she gave no sign of having heard, though just before I left I felt a light pressure on her hand from mine. The phone call from my mother came next morning. My grandmother, her mother, had died that night.

    She was eighty-five. A good age, as they say. No one ever says “a bad age,” but I suppose that would be mine, twenty-eight, or my brother’s, thirty. We were just the age when people tire of sharing flats with two or three others or crippling themselves with a huge mortgage for two or three rooms, but at the time of our grandmother’s death we could see no end to it. We mourned her. We went to the funeral, both of us in black, I because it is chic, Andrew because as a fashion-conscious gay man, he possessed a slender black suit. My mother wore a grey dress and cried all the time, unusual for her in any circumstances. Next day we heard from her solicitors that my grandmother had left her house in Hampstead jointly to my brother and me.

    I have been honest about why we wore black, so I may as well keep up the honesty and say we expected something. Verity Stewart—we had always called her Verity—had a son and a daughter to leave her considerable fortune to (and she did leave it to them), but as we were the only grandchildren, I thought we might get a bit each, enough, say, to help with getting on what’s called the property ladder. Instead we got the property itself, a fine big house near the Heath.

    Fay, my mother, and her partner, Malcolm, expected us to do the sensible thing, the practical thing: sell it and divide the proceeds. Instead, we did the unwise thing and kept it. Surely a house with four living-rooms, six bedrooms, and three bathrooms (and about three thousand books) was big enough for a man and a woman who had always got on with each other. We failed to take into account that there was only one kitchen, one staircase, and one front door, congratulating each other that neither of us played loud music or was likely to have a party to which the other was not invited. There was one thing we never thought about, though why not I don’t know. We were both young, and if we had none now, each had had several partners, and one of us, perhaps both, was likely to have a lover living in.

    In Andrew’s case that happened quite soon after we moved in.

    James Derain is a novelist, his books published by Andrew’s firm, as were Martin Greenwell’s, which is how Andrew knew about Martin’s literary output. They met at a publisher’s party. The occasion can’t have been the anniversary of Oscar Wilde’s birth or, come to that, his death, it was too late for that, but it was something to do with Wilde, a hero of James Derain’s. At that party James told Andrew about Martin Greenwell and a book he’d written but never published that was based on the life of James’s uncle or great-uncle. That party was the start of their friendship. It led to a relationship—and soon, a falling in love, which they celebrated with a trip to Paris for the weekend. They went to look at Wilde’s newly refurbished tomb. It had been restored to Epstein’s original pristine whiteness before its surface was damaged by the lipstick of all the women who came to kiss it over the years. Who would have supposed lipstick could scar marble? Andrew was happy about the lip imprints, saying it almost made up for all the women who spat at Wilde in the street after his downfall.

    Andrew and I had made a rough division of the house, the rooms on the left-hand side, upstairs and down, mine, and those on the right, his. That was all very well, I got one bathroom, he got two; I got three bedrooms and Verity’s study, he got my grandfather Christopher’s study and three bedrooms. But we had to share the kitchen, which was enormous, and on my side of the house.

    “How many places have you lived in,” Andrew asked, “where you’ve had to share the kitchen with two or three other people?”

    I thought about it, tried counting. “Four. It seems different in a place this size.”

    “Let’s give it a go. If we can’t stand it, we’ll have another kitchen put in.”

    It didn’t much concern me. The house was marvellous to live in—in those first weeks—and like my grandmother I spent most of my time blissfully reading. It was spring and warm and I sat reading out in the garden, comfortable in a cane chair with a stack of books on the table in front of me, all of them fictional accounts of unwanted pregnancies and illegitimate births. Sometimes I raised my eyes to “look upon verdure,” as Jane Austen has it. Only one such birth in her works, only one “natural child,” and that one Harriet Smith, for whom Emma attempts the hopeless task of encouraging a clergyman, and therefore a gentleman, to marry her. Harriet may be the daughter of a gentleman, but somehow her illegitimacy negates that and makes her fit to marry a farmer but no one higher up the social scale.

    One book I didn’t look at was The Child’s Child, and I wasn’t conscience-stricken, not then, though I did mention it to Andrew, who came out into the garden before going to work. He hadn’t exactly forgotten about the book but seemed to drag it up out of the depths of memory before light dawned.

    “It’s been lying in a cupboard for half a century,” he said. “No harm done if it hangs about for a bit longer.”

    Something happened that afternoon which was to have great importance in my life, as much as it has had in Andrew’s. I met James Derain.

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  • What People are saying about this

    Ian Rankin
    “The Rendell/Vine partnership has for years been producing consistently better work than most Booker winners put together.”
    New York Times Book Review - Marilyn Stasio
    ''Subtle'' is an inadequate word for Ruth Rendell. So are 'crafty,' 'cunning,' 'clever' and 'sly.' Although these are accurate descriptions of her confounding technique, a better word would be 'surprising.' Whatever it is you might think Rendell is up to, especially when she's writing as Barbara Vine — that's not it.
    Entertainment Weekly - Tina Jordan
    "In the hands of Vine, otherwise known as Ruth Rendell, the book-within-a-book strategy evolves into something infinitely more intricate — a sinister, constantly shifting Rubik's Cube of motives, betrayals, and violence. Grade A
    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Robert Croan
    "A novel by Ruth Rendell (or her literary alter ego, Barbara Vine) is like none other..... The results are seldom what we expect them to be, and that is part of this author's special genius.

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