Cover image for The child's child : a novel
Title:
The child's child : a novel
Author:
Vine, Barbara, 1930-2015.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First Scribner hardcover edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Scribner, 2012.
Physical Description:
302 pages ; 24 cm
Summary:
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.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781451694895
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

INCLUDES AN EXCERPT OF RENDELL'S FINAL NOVEL, DARK CORNERS

From three-time Edgar Award-winning mystery writer Ruth Rendell, writing here under her Barbara Vine pseudonym, an ingenious novel-within-a-novel about brothers and sisters and the violence lurking behind our society's taboos.

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.


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 2

Booklist Review

Ruth Rendell, writing as Barbara Vine, offers a puzzle box of a suspense tale, in which themes and characters keep recurring from novels of Victorian times to those of contemporary London. The title itself is that of a novel within the novel, partially set in wartime London. Grace Easton is a privileged young Londoner, working on her doctoral thesis about the horrific treatment of unwed mothers in Victorian novels. She and her gay brother, Andrew, live together, and, very soon, Andrew invites an irresistibly handsome but loathsome man to live with them. This lover-lodger has contempt for Grace's research, saying that gay men have always faced more hardships. Quicker than you can say coincidence, Grace reads an unpublished novel about the treatment of gays and unwed mothers in the 1930s and '40s. Then a friend of Andrew's and James' is killed by homophobes, and Grace becomes an unwed mother. Readers may recoil at how mechanical the plot devices are here. The biggest flaw, however, is the voice of young Grace, who sounds like a fusty dowager, using words like albeit. Still, Vine offers an absorbing embedded novel and a great deal of fascinating and convincing literary and social history. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Rendell/Vine attracts a committed and sizable audience, even when she's not at her best.--Fletcher, Connie Copyright 2010 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

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


Excerpts

Excerpts

2 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. Excerpted from The Child's Child 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.