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The Chimney Sweeper's Boy

3.78  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,608 Ratings  ·  227 Reviews
An utterly absorbing tale of mystery and obsession by Barbara Vine (a.k.a. Ruth Rendell). This unforgettable novel tells the story of a daughter who, upon starting to write a biography of her late famous father, discovers that he had been an impostor who had stolen his name from a dead child.
Published June 1st 1999 by Pocket Books (first published 1998)
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Oct 18, 2012 Carol rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The surprise ending, or what Vine seems to have intended to be a surprise ending, is patently obvious even from glancing over the summary on the dust jacket. And, geez, will you ever have a trip in front of you if you decide to take the long road to getting there. This book plodded on and on and on.

Vine's prose offers no whimsy or originality; it's pretty much four hundred pages of simple declarative sentences. There is very little dialogue, and what little of it exists is scripted entirely by
I had read this before some years ago but somehow it ended up on my to be read shelf once again. Following one of bookcrossings "theme of the month" threads, Jan was jobs and careers, I picked this one up and read it again.
I did not remember most of it, although it had left me with some impressions that I would only recognize had become part of my thoughts when I read those parts this second time around. It is a very unhappy book for nearly every character, if you are looking for happy endings
Barbara Vine is rising to the top of my favorite authors list. Her psychological suspense novels are all so individual, so very well written with wonderfully developed characters that I want to know more about....after the novel has ended. This novel is no exception.

The Chimney Sweeper's Boy is peopled by an odd assortment of characters whose histories are the fabric of the novel. It's not a standard mystery, not a standard type plot, but you'll find yourself compulsively reading to find out how
Dec 07, 2010 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Barbara by: Cynthia/ Teresa
Shelves: mystery
It was a pleasure to discover Barbara Vine's gifted narrative on the pages of this book. It was no "standard", typical plot mystery. This complex tale is certainly character driven- and what an interesting lot these people are! Although it is not a small novel, it was compelling enough to cause me to yearn to continue my reading when occupied elsewhere. Vine was able to maintain the tension until the very last sentence on the last page! I shall certainly pursue more books by this author!
Nov 04, 2009 Sandra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a pretty good book. At times I felt it dragged on just a little bit.

I found myself feeling irritated by the two very selfish daughters who treat their mother like she doesn't exist, and I'm bothered that by the end of the book, they STILL don't realize what their mother went through. I would have liked to see some resolution. I would have liked to have an actual ending to the story. It seems as though the story ends before there is any closure for any of the characters. I wanted to see
Deanna Brown
I enjoyed this book for the most part, but the characters were utterly unlikable for me. Gerald's daughters Sarah and Hope (especially Hope) were pretentious, spoiled little girls who were nearly unbearable to listen to. I liked their mother Ursula quite a bit better, but I was still greatly bothered by how passively she endured Gerald's abuse. Without giving any spoilers, I do not believe that the revelation at the end accounts for how Gerald changed, and how much of a truly awful person he bec ...more
Syl. A.k.a Topo di biblioteca
Was a good, though slow to medium paced read.
Gerald Candless, a semi reclusive author who lives in a cliff top house near the misty sea coast of Devon dies of a cardiac arrest. His doting daughters are asked by His publisher to write his biography, and the elder one agrees. This decision opens up a Pandora's box and she finds that everything was a lie.
The ever suffering neglected wife and mother ekes out a life for herself and the daughters try to deal with their own demons as best as they could
May 13, 2009 Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a huge Ruth Rendell fan, and I love her Barbara Vine persona novels the best.

This one is classic Barbara Vine. You know the "mystery" right away. It's the way the mystery is solved and how the story unfolds that's intriguing. You can see it coming about 100 pages from the end, but the way she hooks you in is by making you want to know the exquisite details of the story. The details aren't just technical things like guns, alibis, idiotic and awkward explanations, and the rest that normal "mys
Bea Alden
Dec 04, 2008 Bea Alden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-suspense
Psychological mystery about the life of a recently dead father and husband. Gerald Candless, a well-known author, is much beloved by his two daughters, although disliked and resented by his long-suffering wife. When one of his daughters begins to write her father's biography, she discovers that his antecedents were quite other than he had portrayed. In fact at some point he had changed his identity and begun a totally new life. The puzzle is: why?
P. D. James writes: "Ruth Rendell writing as Barb
Finished 11th February 2009.

This was a strange book. Hard to put down. I did not find a single character that I could feel true sympathy with, Gerald was arrogant and domineering. I wanted to shake Ursula for being so submissive and accepting of his mental abuse. The daughters were spoilt and immature. What a family but a good read and I was intrigued to find what his secret was at the very end of the book! I can't see why the events would cause Gerald to become so unloving and hard, can somone
Karen Brooks
Feb 07, 2011 Karen Brooks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having never read a Barbara Vine before, but being recommended this book specifically and by someone whose judgement I value, I looked forward to starting it and I wasn't disappointed. The Chimney Sweeper's Boy is an extraordinary, character driven book that tells the story of the Candless family following the death of the patriarch, the famous novelist, Gerard Candless. The hugely successful Candless leaves behind a remote and unhappy wife, Ursula, and two utterly bereft daughters, Sarah and Ho ...more
I re-read this book to fit my book group's "puzzle" theme. Barbara Vine's novels are always good puzzlers - never "who done it", but "why was it done". The Chimney Sweeper's Boy opens with the death of Gerald Candless. Candless was a famous writer, both best selling & critically acclaimed, who spent 30+ years in a loveless marriage & raised his two daughters to worship him - to a point where they are quite dysfunctional. Now in the process of researching her father's biography, daughter ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Although my discarded library copy has a "Mystery" sticker, I would not consider this a true mystery. To me, a mystery nearly always involves a dead body. Yes, a fellow dies in this one, and early, but his death is no mystery. His life isn't much of a mystery either. The narrator is third-person omniscient, so, while his family discovers Gerald Chandless has lived a secret all his life and none of them knows what the others know, things are revealed to the reader as soon as the author can get th ...more
Aug 13, 2010 Philip rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bruno Bouchet
An enjoyable unchallenging read but definitely not "one of the finest, most accomplished and chilling tales of psychological suspense ever written" as claimed on the cover. There was no suspense. A daughter discovers the truth about her father's false life after he dies while her mother enjoys the freedom of life without him. It is a good read, the wife of the author's blossoming is great but it wasn't chilling and there was no real suspense. The conclusion was pretty obvious from half way throu ...more
May 14, 2008 Alisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like an Iris Murdoch mystery. Gerald Candless, who is mostly dead for the bulk of the book, but around whom the plot revolves, is a prolific and respected author who writes books with titles like "Purple of Cassius" and "A White Webfoot." About half-way through I identified him as a mind-70s Murdochian sort of author. Then I realized all his awful family were Murdoch-styled characters. I wonder if it was homage, critique, or coincidence.

I was really fascinated at the beginning of the book, and w
Stephen Hayes
I've just finished reading this book for the second time. I first read it about 10 years ago, and realised i could not remember a great deal about the plot, though I could remember particular scenes and places mentioned in the book.

It's a mystery novel, but not not a murder mystery. The daughter of a well-known author is asked to write a memoir or biography of her father after his death, but in spite of having enjoyed a close relationship with him as a child, she finds she knows very little abo
Jul 28, 2010 J.R. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
When respected novelist Gerald Candless dies of a sudden heart attack he leaves behind two stricken daughters and a neglected wife who is finally free to live her own life.

Candless’s narcissistic self-absorption and obsessive devotion to his daughters have left Ursula, his wife, puzzled and, eventually, estranged. Hope, the younger daughter, is shattered. But Sarah, the elder, decides to take on his publisher’s request and write a biography of her father.

Her research soon uncovers shocking revel
Celia Powell
Nov 20, 2010 Celia Powell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Barbara Vine is Ruth Rendell's pseudonym for her more... literary? psychological?... mysteries. The Chimney Sweeper's Boy is about the very unattractive character of Gerald Candless, a novelist, who is devoted to his daughters and ignores his wife. When he dies suddenly, one of his daughters is commissioned to write a book about her father and suddenly realises what little she knows about her father's past.

Vine makes unattractive people into really absorbing characters, whom you care about almos
Amanda Patterson
Aug 18, 2011 Amanda Patterson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gerald Candless, a successful revered author, dies of a sudden heart attack. Gerald is married to Ursula and has two daughters, Hope and Sarah. Sarah, his eldest daughter adored him. She wants to memorialise him but soon finds out that her perfect father was not who he pretended to be.
Barbara Vine writes in a way that gives you nightmares and sleepless nights. So, do you really want to know who he was? Do we really want to know the secrets that drove him to live his life as a lie? Yes. Vine is
Jul 16, 2014 Kaethe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, suspense
I've always enjoyed the Vine books. They're so brooding, full of spaces where people don't connect with one another. Hell to live in, but perversely fun to read (at least my life isn't that awful).
Lex Bijlsma
Barbare Vine is het pseudoniem dat Ruth Rendell, beroemd auteur van puzzeldetectives, gebruikt voor haar boeken buiten het genre. Dit boek is wel een mysterie, maar het gaat niet over het opsporen van een moordenaar.

Als een beroemd schrijver overlijdt, neemt een van zijn dochters de taak op zich zijn biografie te schrijven. Daarbij ontdekt ze echter dat haar vader in 1951 een valse identiteit had aangenomen. Wie hij in werkelijkheid was, en waarom hij het nodig had gevonden alle contacten met zi
Apr 04, 2011 Debby rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Rarely does it happen that I complete a book and come to the conclusion that I didn't like the book. I've tried to come up with reasons to give it the 2-star "it was OK", but I just con't get there.
I was going along fine as the story was being set up. Imagine your father is a famous author who adores his daughters and appears to tolerate his wife. Suddenly he dies of a heart attack. His publisher asks one of the daughters to write a biography of her father. So far so good.
As she begins doing r
May 14, 2016 RJ rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, u-k
This novel follows the wife and eldest daughter of a famed writer. After his death, the daughter Sarah is commissioned to write a biography of her father. In doing so, she discovers a secret life and history that becomes more disturbing as she delves further. His wife Ursula thinks back to her family life; most unusually her daughters were much closer to their father than her. While Sarah is looking to find out more about the writer, Ursula starts to distance herself from his memory.

The story t
Sep 02, 2011 Nina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fabulous book, probably Vine's best so far. Really made me think, was shocking but proved that people aren't always what they seem. Did not want to get to the end of this story because I was so involved in the characters.

Favourite quotes:

'She was staring at the couple like a pet car in front of an empty plate' p. 45

'She had come home and luxuriated in her solitude, drinking too much and falling asleep fully clothed on the hearthrug'. P. 289

'Robert has his own beliefs about those who were exce
Sep 03, 2012 Hiba rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
I don't consider myself as a big fan of contemporary novels regardless their genre. However, I started reading the Chimney Sweeper's Boy after reading some reviews and after reading a good short story by Ruth Randall. It starts very well and it was gripping and hard to put down. But that was not enough for me. I didn't like any of the characters and all my feelings towards them were quite negative. Even Ursula who seemed to suffer an oppression and verbal abuse seemed very passive. After finishi ...more
Dec 11, 2010 Melaszka rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Possibly Rendell's finest, IMO.

As with the Blood Doctor, she takes the current fad for genealogy as her starting point for a sweeping multi-generational epic about secrets and lies, the nature of family, identity and its reinvention. A thumpingly good mystery novel that also explores serious themes in a complex fashion.

Downsides: it's never a good idea to write about a community to which you don't belong and I imagine RR/BV may be guilty of patronising stereotypes. Can't say anymore without giv
Jane Odgers
Aug 09, 2011 Jane Odgers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of best-selling novelist Gerald Candless, whose sudden death from a heart attack leaves behind a wife and two doting daughters. To sort through her grief, one of his daughters, Sarah, decides to write a biography of her internationally celebrated father. Within hours of beginning her research, Sarah comes across the first of what will be many shocking revelations. As her life is slowly torn apart, a terrible logic finally emerges to explain her mother's remoteness, her father's ...more
Dec 02, 2007 Trish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's got the intricacy that is Rendell's trademark -- this time there is a mystery without a crime.

Noted author Gerald Candless dies at 71, leaving an embittered wife and two adoring daughters, Sarah and Hope. Sarah is approached by her father's publisher with the suggestion that she pen a memoir of life with her father. When she begins to do research, however she finds that her father's very identity is a puzzle. The real Gerald Candless died when he was a small boy, so who was calling himself
Helen Beesley
Dec 02, 2015 Helen Beesley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'd never read this author before, but I loved her writing. I also really enjoyed this story. I did feel the ending was a bit rushed, but it was very different and kept me reading and reading. I look forward to reading more of her work.
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  • Adam and Eve and Pinch Me
Pseudonym of Ruth Rendell.

Rendell created a third strand of writing with the publication of A Dark Adapted Eye under her pseudonym Barbara Vine in 1986. Books such as King Solomon's Carpet, A Fatal Inversion and Anna's Book (original UK title Asta's Book) inhabit the same territory as her psychological crime novels while they further develop themes of family misunderstandings and the side effects
More about Barbara Vine...

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“Our children, when young, are part of ourselves. When they grow up they are just other people.” 11 likes
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