Cover image for Grasshopper : a novel
Title:
Grasshopper : a novel
Author:
Vine, Barbara, 1930-2015.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harmony Books, [2000]

©2000
Physical Description:
392 pages ; 25 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780609607893
Format :
Book

Available:*

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Summary

Summary

Clodagh Brown loved climbing. First it was trees. Later, as a teenager, she would scale the electrical pylons that tower over the English countryside like giant grasshoppers -- and share the experience with Daniel, her first lover. As a young woman she'd walk for miles over London's rooftops, peering through windows into people's intimate lives in a nightly ritual that bound her closely to the small group of friends with whom she lived and climbed. Looking back on it, Clodagh would claim that her passion for heights saved her life -- but not without exacting a terrible cost.... Grasshopper is Ruth Rendell's ninth novel written using the pseudonym Barbara Vine. Under her own name, Ruth Rendell writes classic whodunits featuring Inspector Wexford and novels renowned for their mastery of psychological suspense. Her Barbara Vine novels are written in exquisitely crafted layers, peeled away page by page to expose the darkest longings and obsessions of the human heart.


Author Notes

Barbara Vine is the author of "The Chimney Sweeper's Boy" (Harmony, 1998), "The Brimstone Wedding" (Harmony, 1995), & "Anna's Book" (Harmony, 1993). She lives in London, England.

(Publisher Provided) Ruth Rendell, a.k.a. Barbara Vine, was born in London and educated in Essex where she worked as a reporter and a sub editor for newspapers from 1948 to 1952.

Since the 1960's, Rendell wrote mysteries featuring Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford. In between, she also writes other non-series psychological crime stories under her own name and as Barbara Vine. She won three Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America - one for the novel "A Dark-Adapted Eye" (1986) written as Barbara Vine and the other two for short stories (1975, 1984). She also won a Silver Dagger in 1985 for "The Tree of Hands" and three Gold Daggers (1976, 1986, and 1987) for "A Demon in My View," "Live Flesh" and "A Fatal Inversion" from the British crime Writers Association.

Rendell died on May 2, 2015. She was 85 years old.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

It isn't enough to say that when Ruth Rendell writes as Barbara Vine, she moves from detective stories to psychological suspense. Yes, the Vines are both psychological and suspenseful, but they are always something more as well. The characters are twisted in a hard-to-define but distinctly unsettling way; the plots circle around themselves, moving steadily closer to an inevitable but unpredictable cataclysm; and, above all, the building tension is internalized by both the characters and the reader. This time the story is told in flashback, as 31-year-old Clodagh Brown recalls the events of her twentieth year, when she and a group of friends, including the charismatic Silver, spent their time walking the roofs of London. Heights were always Clodagh's passion, and as we learn of her childhood fascination with climbing electrical pylons (and the tragedy that resulted), we know that her rooftop forays must lead to a similiar disaster. Like the other Vine novels, this one is more than simply multilayered; multiple meanings emerge as the layers move freely from forefront to background, crashing and receding like waves, building to a subtle yet powerful crescendo. Clodagh and her fellow roof-dwellers are, on one level, yet another group of freedom-craving young people, finding on the roof a sense of lawlessness that satisfies their unconventional spirits. And yet, as Clodagh comes to realize, life on the roof is not free of its own society, its own jealousies, and even its own evil. This is a coming-of-age novel but an intriguingly conflicted one; there is a touch of Lord of the Flies pointing us one way, but there's also a dash of Jane Austen demanding equal time. How's that for psychological suspense? --Bill Ott


Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

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.]DZaheera Jiwaji, Edmonton, Alta. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

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. Excerpted from Grasshopper by Barbara Vine All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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