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Grasshopper
     

Grasshopper

3.8 5
by Barbara Vine, Ruth Rendell
 

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“They have sent me here because of what happened on the pylon.”
When Clodagh Brown writes these words at the age of nineteen, she believes that she is leaving behind the traumatic events of her youth. But Clodagh soon learns that you can never entirely escape your past.

In the aftermath of the incident on the pylon--one of the great electrified

Overview

“They have sent me here because of what happened on the pylon.”
When Clodagh Brown writes these words at the age of nineteen, she believes that she is leaving behind the traumatic events of her youth. But Clodagh soon learns that you can never entirely escape your past.

In the aftermath of the incident on the pylon--one of the great electrified structures that dot the English countryside like so many gargantuan grasshoppers--Clodagh goes off to university, moves into a basement flat arranged by her unsympathetic family, and finds freedom trekking across London's rooftops with a gang of neighborhood misfits. As she begins a thrilling relationship with a fellow climber, however, both Clodagh and the reader are haunted by the memory of the pylon and of the terrible thing that happened there--and by the eerie sense that another tragedy is just a footfall away.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Joyce Carol Oates
One of the finest practitioners of her craft in the English-speaking world.
New York Times Book Review
Time
When Ruth Rendell, already the best mystery writer in the English-speaking world, launched a second byline, Barbara Vine, she actually stepped up her writing level.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Writing under her Vine pseudonym, Ruth Rendell offers another of her intriguing, multifaceted psychological suspense novels (The Chimney Sweeper's Boy and The Brimstone Wedding, etc.). The narrator here is Clodagh Brown, who, as a child growing up in Suffolk, loved climbing trees, then steeples and eventually pylons whose steel arms carried electricity across nearby fields. Resembling giant grasshoppers from a distance, close-up they embodied high-voltage, lethal danger; indeed, a teenage Clodagh survives a tragic accident involving a pylon and her first love, Daniel, before she leaves home at 19 for college in London. She finds classes boring, whereas walks through Victorian neighborhoods, with five-story row houses, decorative cornices and quaint chimneys, enchant her. Clodagh almost forgets the claustrophobic terrors she's suffered since childhood until she collapses in a pedestrian underpass and is rescued by an archetypal savior named Silver. On the top floor of his mostly absent parents' home, Silver provides a haven for a disparate group: exotic Wim, mentor to would-be roof climbers; Liv, who, after an accident, can't face descending to street level; and amoral Jonny, who interests Silver because he is "a real life burglar." Silver has a small trust fund, so he's free to cultivate "the habit of happiness." He and Clodagh fall in love, and both become intrepid midnight roof climbers. As youthful idealists, they determine to help a couple harassed by tabloids accusing them of kidnapping a child. Their ill-fated attempt leads to a terrifying climax. Although readers know that Clodagh, a beguiling heroine, has survived to become a successful electrical engineer, and is newly married, the story of her youthful adventures is enthralling, and the conundrums she faces in her life because of her love of heights make for an ingenious story told by a master of suspense. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Ruth Rendell, the popular British crime novelist, writes superbly crafted psychological thrillers under the Vine pseudonym (A Dark-Adapted Eye, The Chimney Sweeper's Boy). Her tenth Vine novel takes us into the lonely life of 19-year-old Clodagh Brown in Maida Vale, a fictional north London suburb. Haunted by tragedy in her young life, she befriends a group of equally damaged and alienated youths. Their nocturnal habit is to climb onto the roof and roam on the tops buildings, from one to another. It is all a daring adventure, until the motives of the various characters collide. Thick with atmosphere and tension, Vine's work reveals details and hints at secrets while pulling the reader into an architectural web of suspense. Highly recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/00.]--Zaheera Jiwaji, Edmonton, Alta. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Years after she caused her teenaged lover's accidental death, claustrophobic Clodagh Brown is once again mixed up in deeds that are bound to end fatally—but none too soon—in this intricate, rather febrile exercise in the delayed payoff. Many of Ruth Rendell's previous nine novels under the Vine byline (The Chimney Sweeper's Boy, 1998, etc.) have focused on dysfunctional surrogate families, and once again Clodagh, scarred by the climbing accident that killed her friend Daniel Fleetwood but even more terrified of enclosed spaces than of dizzying heights, is only part of the ill-assorted menagerie who've found haven at 15 Russia Road in the quiet district of Maida Vale. The others, united only by their shared love of climbing London's roofs, are Wim, a gifted amateur acrobat; Liv, an agoraphobic runaway who feels free only when she's well away from street level; Jonny, a sociopath attracted by the idea of entering those invitingly open windows below; and Silver, whose pleasure it is to take all the others into his home. The mixture is obviously explosive, and the first half of the story—especially the counterbalancing family portrait of Clodagh's lordly cousin and his sitcom star wife, who evidently take in their poor relation expressly in order to sneer at her—is as ominously accomplished as anything in Vine. But Clodagh and Silver's fascination with a pair of foster parents on the lam from authorities who insist that the boy they've taken in be adopted by a mixed-race household is distracting, unconvincing, and worked out with a lack of conviction rare for a master of long-deferred doom; and the elaborate fictional edifice endsupcrumbling rather than building to a peak. Even though Vine's characters invariably find waiting such a losing game, her loyal readership may want to wait till next year just this once.

From the Publisher
“Mesmerizing. . . . A teasing narrative of fatal obsession.”—Orlando Sentinel

“The Vine novels are sublime works of psychological suspense…Grasshopper is as skillful as anything this wonderful writer has done."—The Seattle Times

"A typically elegant, and typically elegiac, turn from the woman with two award-winning names. And one superlative voice."—Fort Worth Star Telegram

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307426093
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/18/2007
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
619,616
File size:
553 KB

Read an Excerpt

They have sent me here because of what happened on the pylon. Or perhaps so that I don't have to see the pylon every time I go out or even look out of a window.

"We've thought of selling this house and moving," my father said. "Don't think it hasn't been in our minds. Still you won't . . ."

He left the sentence unfinished, but I knew how he would have ended it. You won't always be here, he'd meant to say. A girl of your age, you won't live at home much longer, you'll be off to college or a job, a home of your own. And out of sight, out of mind, he meant too. Gradually people will stop thinking of us as the parents of that girl, they'll stop asking what kind of parents we were to bring up a girl who would do that, and they'll stop staring and pointing us out. Especially if you don't come home very often. Maybe they'll think you're dead. Maybe we'll tell them you are.

That last bit was in my imagination. I'm not saying they wish me dead. They have my welfare at heart, as my mother puts it. Which must be why they were so happy--happier than I've seen them since before the pylon day--when Max made his offer. The best they'd hoped for was a room in whatever accommodation the college had available or for me to be the fourth girl in a shared flat somewhere.

"A whole flat to yourself," my mother said, "and in a lovely part of town."

I had a picture in my mind then of rows and rows of mock-Tudor houses, striped black and white like zebras, with pampas grass in their front gardens and Audis outside their garages. Daniel and I had seen plenty of them, riding around the ring roads on his old Motoguzzi. Our London was the outer suburbs, Waltham Cross and Barnet, Colindale and Edgware, Uxbridge and Richmond and Purley. We counted the pylons and took photographs of the barbed-wire guards on their legs. We never penetrated as far as Maida Vale and we'd never heard of Little Venice. But still I thought "a nice part of town" must mean houses like our house. How Max could have a flat in it, I couldn't imagine. Flats were in blocks, there had been plenty of those up along the North Circular Road too, great sprawling flat-roofed buildings painted custard color with their names in letters of black or silver: Ferndean Court and Summerhill and Brook House. So when I got here this afternoon I wasn't prepared for what I found.

My father had been going to drive me. It's what parents do when their child goes off to college and a new place to live in. I've seen enough of it to know. They pack up the trunk of the car and all the back of the car too, with clothes and sports gear and books and radio and CD player and maybe a computer and, of course, a hamper of food. It's a joyful occasion, a turning point in someone's life, and if it's the dad driving and the mother left behind, she's tearful but she's smiling too, calling out "Good luck" and making the departing one promise to phone as soon as she's settled in and not to forget the cold chicken in the hamper and the homemade cake. My leaving home wasn't like that. I wouldn't have expected it to be and I never had much faith in my father's promise. As it happened, the car went in for service the day before and the garage phoned and said they'd like to keep it for another day to have a look at the electrics. Maybe Dad didn't fix it that way. I expect it was just a piece of luck for him. Anyway, they said it couldn't be helped, I'd just have to manage on the train.

So I left in much the same way as I've lived these past two years, under a cloud. After the pylon my parents had counseling, just as I did, and the counselor told them they had to be understanding and supportive. It was their responsibility to help me put all that behind me and make a fresh start, not blame myself and feel guilty all the time. But they couldn't. I suppose they couldn't help themselves. I think they really saw me as evil. One of the ways they dealt with it was to tell me they didn't "know where I got it from," as if every action you performed and every mistake you made had been made by a string of ancestors before you and passed on in a gene of thoughtlessness or daring--or evil. This morning and all through lunch they were giving me those looks that are a mix of wonderment and--well, resignation, I suppose. And I could see something else there too: relief, hope maybe, a fresh start for them as well.


They have sent me here because of what happened on the pylon. Or perhaps so that I don't have to see the pylon every time I go out or even look out of a window.

"We've thought of selling this house and moving," my father said. "Don't think it hasn't been in our minds. Still you won't . . ."

He left the sentence unfinished, but I knew how he would have ended it. You won't always be here, he'd meant to say. A girl of your age, you won't live at home much longer, you'll be off to college or a job, a home of your own. And out of sight, out of mind, he meant too. Gradually people will stop thinking of us as the parents of that girl, they'll stop asking what kind of parents we were to bring up a girl who would do that, and they'll stop staring and pointing us out. Especially if you don't come home very often. Maybe they'll think you're dead. Maybe we'll tell them you are.

That last bit was in my imagination. I'm not saying they wish me dead. They have my welfare at heart, as my mother puts it. Which must be why they were so happy--happier than I've seen them since before the pylon day--when Max made his offer. The best they'd hoped for was a room in whatever accommodation the college had available or for me to be the fourth girl in a shared flat somewhere.

"A whole flat to yourself," my mother said, "and in a lovely part of town."

I had a picture in my mind then of rows and rows of mock-Tudor houses, striped black and white like zebras, with pampas grass in their front gardens and Audis outside their garages. Daniel and I had seen plenty of them, riding around the ring roads on his old Motoguzzi. Our London was the outer suburbs, Waltham Cross and Barnet, Colindale and Edgware, Uxbridge and Richmond and Purley. We counted the pylons and took photographs of the barbed-wire guards on their legs. We never penetrated as far as Maida Vale and we'd never heard of Little Venice. But still I thought "a nice part of town" must mean houses like our house. How Max could have a flat in it, I couldn't imagine. Flats were in blocks, there had been plenty of those up along the North Circular Road too, great sprawling flat-roofed buildings painted custard color with their names in letters of black or silver: Ferndean Court and Summerhill and Brook House. So when I got here this afternoon I wasn't prepared for what I found.

My father had been going to drive me. It's what parents do when their child goes off to college and a new place to live in. I've seen enough of it to know. They pack up the trunk of the car and all the back of the car too, with clothes and sports gear and books and radio and CD player and maybe a computer and, of course, a hamper of food. It's a joyful occasion, a turning point in someone's life, and if it's the dad driving and the mother left behind, she's tearful but she's smiling too, calling out "Good luck" and making the departing one promise to phone as soon as she's settled in and not to forget the cold chicken in the hamper and the homemade cake. My leaving home wasn't like that. I wouldn't have expected it to be and I never had much faith in my father's promise. As it happened, the car went in for service the day before and the garage phoned and said they'd like to keep it for another day to have a look at the electrics. Maybe Dad didn't fix it that way. I expect it was just a piece of luck for him. Anyway, they said it couldn't be helped, I'd just have to manage on the train.

So I left in much the same way as I've lived these past two years, under a cloud. After the pylon my parents had counseling, just as I did, and the counselor told them they had to be understanding and supportive. It was their responsibility to help me put all that behind me and make a fresh start, not blame myself and feel guilty all the time. But they couldn't. I suppose they couldn't help themselves. I think they really saw me as evil. One of the ways they dealt with it was to tell me they didn't "know where I got it from," as if every action you performed and every mistake you made had been made by a string of ancestors before you and passed on in a gene of thoughtlessness or daring--or evil. This morning and all through lunch they were giving me those looks that are a mix of wonderment and--well, resignation, I suppose. And I could see something else there too: relief, hope maybe, a fresh start for them as well.


From the Hardcover edition.

What People are Saying About This

Patricia Cornwell
Unequivocally the most brilliant mystery novelist of our times. She magnificently triumphs in a style that is uniquely hers and mesmerizing.
Scott Turow
A writer whose work should be read by anyone who enjoys brilliant mysteries or distinguished literature.
P. D. James
Barbara Vine has transcended her genre by her remarkable imaginative power to explore and illuminate the dark corners of the human psyche.

Meet the Author

The new Barbara Vine novel, The Blood Doctor (1-4000-4504-5), will be published by Harmony Books in July 2002. She lives in London.

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Grasshopper 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the first of the Barbara Vine novels I've read. I found it hard to follow until I grasped her writing style. This was a wonderful book! So real and interesting that I continue to think of, and miss, the characters at Silver's flat. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading everything she writes both as Ruth Rundell and Barbara Vine. I highly recommend this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There are no real messages in this book -- and that is the problem. It simply follows some lazy British 18-20 somethings, who are trying to find themselves... but they are too bizarre for the reader to care in the end. Especially when the only thing they care about, or seem to care about, is against the law. There are many better books that discuss similar topics.