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The House of Stairs
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The House of Stairs

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  1,176 ratings  ·  82 reviews
Lizzie hasn't seen her old friend, Bell, for some fourteen years, but when she spots her from a taxi in a London street she jumps out and pursues her despite 'all the terrible things' that passed between them. As Lizzie reveals those events, little by little, the women rekindle their friendship, with terrifying results...'This is the third psychological thriller by Ruth Re ...more
Hardcover, 0 pages
Published March 26th 1991 by Random House Value Publishing (first published January 1st 1988)
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Out of print. This is my favorite Barbara Vine novel. Incredible structure, with a perfect amount of foreshadowing. Narrator's voice is pitch perfect throughout. This book is worth reading more than once, as I just have, taking advantage of the fact that it is now available in ebook format.

I have placed this book on my shelf of "books-about-books" because Rendell (here under her pseudonym) borrows her main story line, events that are recalled, from "The Wings of the Dove" by Henry James. In fact
Jan 05, 2010 Barbara rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Maria, Merilee,
Recommended to Barbara by: Teresa
Shelves: mystery
I am back to the same dilemma, choosing the appropriate rating.It seems to me that works of fine, literary merit should stand apart from those of a more untried worth. There is no debate in my estimation, that Barbara Vine is a skilled, even brilliant author; but this novel was dark, often plodding and very depressing. I liked it least of those I have read by Vine. So here I am with an internal dispute. Do I rate this book in the same class as someone who has slim talent and grinds out new popul ...more
This was one of the first three Barbara Vine novels. I'd been an avid fan of Ruth Rendell since my early teens (even before she came to our school to chat to us in the sixth form common room - she was a friend of our form teacher). When I found out she'd written three novels under another name, I was incensed. Why hadn't anyone told me? I devoured all three books immediately, and loved them - the daily commute from Colchester to Liverpool Street had never been so enjoyable. The books have been i ...more
Jan 22, 2014 Wayne rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: if you enjoy the Art of Good Storytelling
Recommended to Wayne by: Vine's Rendells

This did not read at all like a thriller, or what is usually considered a "thriller".Character, and clever storytelling techniques were as much to be savoured as the plot.
And some people complain about the number of characters in a Russian novel!!!!
Here they are all tumbling out in the early chapters, names galore..."and who might you be ??" I was continually asking myself.

Not only Characters but Father is being constantly shunted backwards and forwards.And YES, we know so-and-so is a
Helen Kitson
This is, I think, the third of Ruth Rendell's psychological thrillers written under the name Barbara Vine, distinguishing them from her more conventional murder mystery novels. The House of Stairs is a very literate novel - elegantly written, referencing Henry James and Bronzino along the way. The narrator, Elizabeth, is a writer, aware that the work she churns out is not worthy of her, but also conscious of the need to earn money.

The novel opens with Elizabeth spotting in the street a woman wit
Aug 29, 2014 Mary rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes contemporary mysteries
Recommended to Mary by: Library Book Sale
Who is the sad, reflective narrator and what mysterious illness does she suffer from? What is the strange hold that the tall, dark woman named Bell has over her, and whatever happened at the carefully described House of Stairs in London that sent Bell to prison? The answers are gradually revealed as the intricate knots of this mystery are untied.

The narrator of the story is a middle-aged novelist named Elizabeth Vetch who, ever since she learned of her grim heritage at age fourteen, has lived u
So here's a question. If you work at some terrible, terrible job teaching English while you're trying to learn enough French for a real job, and your boss, who likes to keep you there on site so that she can feel like she's getting her money's worth even when she doesn't have a lot of clients lined up, schedules you for like a lesson at 8h30, then one from 11h30 to 13h30, and then a last one at the very end of the day before the office closes, so that you're trapped on site all day with not much ...more
What would you do if your aunt was making marriage she shouldn't be making? What would you do if you saw a murderer out of jail? Read this and find out!
This is really 3.5 stars.

I don't really like trying to write spoiler-free reviews of mysteries, so I'll just keep this brief and say that the vast majority of this book was great. Vine builds up the tension wonderfully and writes Lizzie, Cosette, and Bell as fully formed people, with quirks and inconsistencies and nuance. The "mystery" is not really mysterious, as Vine references Wings of the Dove often enough for the reader to figure out that it is crucial. I wasn't disappointed in this, howeve
Apr 12, 2008 Heather rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in London; "The Wings of the Dove"; Huntington's chorea
Splendid psychological/suspense novel! in my Rendell/Vine Top 5. This book sent me to the web to look up Bronzino's portrait of Lucrezia Panciatichi and to the bookstore for James' "Wings of the Dove." Vivid portrait of hedonistic mod 1960s London. Bell is one of many female sociopaths in Rendell's works, and I think one of the best. Is this Rendell's only novel featuring a lesbian relationship? ("No Night Too Long" and "Chimney-Sweeper's Boy" both feature gay/bi; I can't think of any other off ...more
Vine/Rendell creates a creeping sense of dread as the narrative continues through its chronological complexities. The narrator, Elizabeth, is recalling events that occurred more than a decade and a half ago, and the question of her reliability is never wholly resolved. She certainly withholds information from the reader; some of it she eventually releases, some of it she doesn't. And she gets some key things wrong; again, she has become aware over time of some of her mistakes and misinterpretati ...more
Moonlight Reader
The banality of evil. Shocking.
Fatal Inversion is one of my favourite books and I keep reading Barbara Vine's work in the hope of finding something that matches up to it. So far I've been disappointed. This was just boring, I felt like I spent half my life reading it. (It was actually only a couple of days!)

1 star - I didn't like it
Jayne Charles
Distinctly average, I thought. I started well, with the narrator pursuing a mystery woman through the streets of London, but it all got rather tedious when we got started on reminiscing about the house of the book's title, lesbianism and the narrator's medical background. Yawn. I guessed the 'twist' too. I tend to dislike Vine's books about bohemian types, and this fits right into that category.
Defeldre Anne-catherine
Comme souvent, Ruth Rendell nous offre un roman aux débuts un peu lent qui gagne soudainement en intensité pour finir par être étouffant... Probablement après "L'été de Trapellune" le plus noir et le plus marquant de ses livres... Des personnages ni noirs ni blancs, tout en nuances et en mystères... Laisse un léger goût amer... âmes sensibles (peut-être) s'abstenir
This book was excellently written and deserves a high rating, but if I'm rating it based on my enjoyment then 3 stars is accurate. I struggled getting through it, mostly due to the characters and my lack of interest in their story.
Alasdair Craig
A heavy, tough read: Set in alternating time periods where a future tragedy is hinted at in the one, and complicated reminisces are described in the other. Starts off slowly, but ends off powerfully and dramatically.
Bev Hankins
I like Ruth Rendell writing as Ruth Rendell much better than those under the name of Baraba Vine.
Even an average Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell book is better than most books. This is one of the best so it is very good indeed. Like most of the books Rendell has written under the Vine pen name, it is more concerned with the psychological aspects of a crime. There is no real whodunit here, the murderer is named at the outset, but the identity of the victim is not revealed until near the end. Rendell is not concerned with making you love her characters; she is more interested in motivations. Lizzie ...more
Apr 01, 2009 Laura rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Angie Walters
Although the ending of this was absolutely frustrating because of Vine's frustratingly passive character, the book as a whole was terrific. Vine/Rendell has a knack for giving her first person narrators major character flaws--some of which they're aware of, though not all--which always makes for an interesting, though frequently frustrating read. Elizabeth in Stairs is a great narrator because she allows herself to be taken along for the ride, however awful the ride might end (she even "churns o ...more
One of my favorite - and most frequently re-read - Vines. My last re-read was Summer 2006, and I'm feeling it 'call' to me. Rendell has called this her "Henry James novel."

7/04/11: I didn't re-read it when I made the above comment, probably two years ago, but I am re-reading it now.

7/07/11: This novel has a very leisurely pace, which works perfectly in its favor. One of Vine/Rendell's hallmarks as a writer is her extraordinary ability to to go back and forth in time within the space of a page or
I love almost all the Rendell/Vine books. I re-read this one while looking for light reading to get me through a busy week in July. (One of the few perks of advancing middle age -I forget what happens at the end of books!) I didn't have a huge sympathy for any of the characters in this one - but enjoyed the 1960s/70s London setting, & the central "mystery" was pretty good. It made me want to keep reading, & even made me wonder, what happened next for Elizabeth - seems like there are some ...more
I adore Ruth Rendell. I really do. But...

This book took me forever to read. In this first person narrative, the main character recalls some years of her tragic life. The reader is told very early on that there is a murder and who the murderer is and strongly hints that it involves an open window at great height but leaves unanswered until the end just who and how.

And yet the tragedy is something quite other. The tragedy is the threat of Huntington's chorea.

This would have been a more compelling
Lynn Kearney
Lest we forget, as the newer Ruth Rendell books disappoint, that she was a great writer, especially writing as Barbara Vine, and this may be the best of the lot. I first read it many years ago, but it does not lose its power after several decades. Bell and Cosette are both fine literary creations.
Elan Durham
One of the most underrated books ever written by Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine ... Filled with scenes of the most excruciating tension, and based on 'The Wings of the Dove by Henry James ... a real psychological thriller.
Mükemmel bir roman...Masumiyet, tutku, aldanma, ihanet ve pişmanlık gibi kavramlar o kadar güzel aktarılmış ki, söylenecek tek söz kalmamış! Büyük yazarın gözlem gücü, insan psikolojisinin karanlık yönlerini anlatmasındaki ustalık dehşet verici, sarsıcı... Elizabeth, romanın sonunda adeta Rus Ruleti oynuyor Silas gibi . Kurtuluşu mümkün, ancak ürkütücü gelecek daha ağır basıyor.
Clever construction of the novel with many time changes and much foreshadowing. Seems a little dated now and the writing rather drawn out. Worth the read however.
Not my favorite. I much prefer A Dark-Adapted Eye

Library copy
Not the most un-figure-outable mystery - but you can't go wrong with Vine's (Rendell) writing.
Amazing story structure that mirrors the house of the title, an unreliable narrator - my favorite, and an extremely unsettling villain.
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  • The Crocodile Bird
A.K.A. 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 of sec
More about Barbara Vine...
A Dark-Adapted Eye Fatal Inversion The Chimney Sweeper's Boy Anna's Book The Brimstone Wedding

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