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The child’s child — book review

28 February 2013

The Child's ChildThe Child’s Child by Barbara Vine

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

At first I thought this was going to be one of the better books by Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara Vine, when a doctoral student writing a thesis on unmarried mothers in Victorian literature is given an unpublished novel on the same topic, but set in the 1920s and 1930s to read. At the beginning it showed promise of being something like Possession by A.S. Byatt, or, if not quite at that level, like a Robert Goddard novel, with a mystery in the past coming back to haunt people in the present. I kept reading, hoping for some sort of dénouement, which never came.

The past action is all in the unpublished novel, which, dealing with unmarried mothers and homosexuality, could not be published when it was written, as those were taboo topics in those days. The thesis about how the theme of unmarried mothers was dealt with in Victorial literature piqued my interest, as I had just read Oliver Twist, where that is one of the central themes.

But The child’s child is rather disappointing, as it comes in the form of a novella wrapped in a novelette, with very little connection between them. The novella is supposed to be based on the life of a great uncle of one of the characters in the wrapping story, but the connection is not made clear or explained, though one is led to expect that at some point it will be.

Barbara Vine has written better books in this genre in the past — one of them is Asta’s book, which I must perhaps re-read to see why I remember it as so much better than this one.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. 28 February 2013 8:15 pm

    I agree! I eagerly awaited this book only to be completely disappointed with it. The plot is completely disjointed, the characters are one-dimensional and boring. Of course, the book is not half as bad as the most recent one she published under the name of Ruth Rendell, The St. Zita Society.

    I don’t want to believe Rendell is losing her skill because of her age but I feel like I have to draw that conclusion.

    • 1 March 2013 6:51 pm

      I’ve started re-reading Asta’s book to see if it’s as much better than this one as I remembered it.


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