A Dark Adapted Eye
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A Dark Adapted Eye

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  3,784 ratings  ·  158 reviews
Like most families, they had their secrets...

And they hid them under a genteelly respectable veneer. No onlooker would guess that prim Vera Hillyard and her beautiful, adored younger sister, Eden, were locked in a dark and bitter combat over one of those secrets. England in the fifties was not kind to women who erred, so they had to use every means necessary to keep the tr...more
Published March 3rd 1987 by Penguin Canada (first published January 1st 1986)
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Dec 05, 2009 Barbara rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: MARIA, KELLY
Recommended to Barbara by: CYNTHIA , TERESA & MERILEE
Shelves: mystery, suspense
This book was apparently Ruth Rendell's introduction as Barbara Vine. One could not, by any means, classify this as a typical suspense mystery. It is clearly,as we have become better acquainted with Vine, one of sophisticated, intricate and complex plotting. To rehash the details of this tale is unnecessary here, for many others have done so.It is not a fast moving novel, but one of subtlety and careful, deliberate attention to details.

This is the story of an English family, traced through the...more
Wow what an introduction to Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine. I suppose this would be considered a psychological suspense mystery, where the suspense is maintained throughout the novel even though the reader knows very early that a murder has occurred and a murderer has hanged. So many have reviewed this book that I don't feel the need to say much but, if you haven't yet read any of this series (as I hadn't), run to your library or bookstore and begin. Since this is the first of Rendell's books writing...more
M.J. Johnson
I have just read my very first Barbara Vine novel, A Dark Adapted Eye. Once I'd finished it, I took a quick peek at some of the reader reviews that have been posted for the book on Goodreads. They are fascinating and insightful, again driving it home to me that a reader's experience with a novel, though in some part down to mood and situation, is often a matter of whether or not the book (assuming the work itself is basically sound!) finds the audience the author hoped to reach.

I understand A Da...more
Oct 11, 2011 Sara rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like slow-paced psychological explorations
I read this because of the note I found at the end of Rendell's Shake Hands Forever, describing why she began the Barbara Vine series. Evidently she was always called by two names, since her mother's Scandinavian family had trouble pronouncing Ruth. And they came to symbolize two different personalities for her.

She describes them this way:
"Ruth and Barbara are two aspects of me. Ruth is tougher, colder, more analytical, possibly more aggressive. Ruth has written all the novels, created Chief In...more
Not your typical mystery, for what is in doubt here is not whodunnit or what they have done - we are told from the outset that Vera is to be hanged for murder - but who the victim is and why the crime was committed.

Using flashbacks (something I usually dislike, but which Vine is an absolute master at) Vera's neice tells us how the whole situation came about, using as a frame to the novel the fact that someone wants to write about her aunt's crime and trial.

And so the reader is dragged into a tig...more
When a journalist contacts Faith Severn in the interest of writing a book about the execution of her aunt Vera Hillyard, Faith slowly reveals and unravels the story of the Hillyard family complete in it's complicities and claustrophobias. After her parents' death, Vera leaves her young son and military husband in the care of others and undertakes the role of mother to her younger sister, Eden. Vera and Eden's relationship is extremely close and secretive, often excluding all other parties. Livin...more
Juanita Rice
I really liked this book: I kept marveling at how the author captured a certain subtle cruelty in families, creating an exact replica of the kinds of little digs that are truly wrenching to a child or adolescent who cannot find either a response or any way to identify what's going on. I wince with the narrator every time she visits her father's two sisters who "disapprove" of her so snippily.

The book is a reminiscence reexamined. Faith stays with her two aunts frequently; one is her father's twi...more
Wonderful, tragic, amazingly ambiguous book that demands to be read more than once. I love Vine/Rendell's courage in leaving the central enigma unsolved. I love the way she gradually creates sympathy for Vera, who in the beginning of the book seems absolutely unsalvageable... not because she's a convicted murderess, but because she was so unkind, exacting, hysterical, narrow-minded, and cold when her niece was young. It doesn't seem possible that this horrible woman could end as a figure of such...more
This was hard work. It has the flavour of a police report or schoolboy essay - it's very important to get all the information in & detail exactly who all the characters are & what they ate but style or interest are alien concepts to the author. It's very dry & it took me a long time to get into it. The novel seems to be building to some climactic revelation but there is none. There is a sort of a secret but this is telegraphed from the start so hardly any kind of surprise when the na...more
If you are looking for a light, easy to read book where the ending ties everything up in a neat bow, then this is not the book for you.

This is a complex read where the narrator slowly unfolds events of the past. We are introduced to a vast array of family and friends, some important, some mere names, but we don't know who is important and who is not. The time frame shifts and changes as the narrator, Faith, recalls almost at random, events from the past.

For the first few chapters I was left ad...more
A great human desire driven gothic novel about a family. Vine (Rendell) has the ability to make the reader even feel sorry for the murderer. This is an incredibly well done book.
Jul 23, 2009 Kate rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kate by: Mary Ann
Shelves: 2009, age-adult, mystery
This was recommended to me by a coworker who said it was very creepy...

Faith has lived under the shadow of her aunt Vera, who was hanged for murder when Faith was in college. Years later, she receives word from a man who wants to write a book about Vera's crime and her motives. This takes Faith on a trip down memory lane, where the reader gains insight into a strange family dynamic that leads to murder.

It was a slow read. I found it a bit difficult to get into. I was intrigued by the dynamics of...more
There's a running joke between me and a friend of mine about jazz music. We'd be out at a club or jazz festival, and once the music moves into an obscure fusion phase, he'd lean over to me and say, "See, here's where the music gets too smart for me".

I had a similar feeling after finishing this novel. There were far too many characters to keep track of and I actually had to write down on a piece of paper the family tree to have any hope of continuing to read forward.
While I admire her for coming...more
Mary Catherine
I really love Barbara Vine's (aka Ruth Rendell) books. They all have a very dark tone to them and place their emphasis not on "whodunit" but on "why."

This book is no exception. A woman whose aunt was hanged for murder tells the gripping story of how the murder came to happen. We know from the first page who the killer is and who the victim is, and yet as the book goes on, it becomes more and more interesting and harder to put down.
Vera Hillyard was hanged for the murder of her half sister Eden in the 1950s. Many years later her niece, Faith Severn, assists a crime writer who is constructing the true story of Vera and why she resulted to murder. Although Vera is not a particularly likeable character I felt that the author was clever in enabling the reader to empathise with her character and motivations. This book is very much an account of middle class England during and after the 2nd World War. This is not a crime story,...more
This book is Ruth Rendells first book as Barbara Vine. I seem to be reading them in reverse order, but since the books are not connected that's okay.

Ms. Vine once again takes us on a journey. We are told from the start who was murdered and who did it, but we aren't told the motivation for the murder until the end.

The title refers to Faith, the narrator, being left in the dark so long about her family that it has taken her many, many years to fully comprehend what happened 40 years previous. He...more
I didn't expect to like this book, although I knew it would be well-written from reading Ruth Rendell's Inspector Wexford series. (Rendell writes some of her psychological suspense stand-alones as Barbara Vine, or did at one time; lately she seems to be using one name for everything.) However, I think it will probably be on my 10 Best List for older books for 2009. For one thing, it had two aspects that always draw me in -- it's set mostly in the past (written in the 1980s with the narrator look...more
I hadn't read any books of Barbara Vine or of her other name Ruth Rendell. I went in to this with no expectations whatsoever. What I found was a tightly plotted yarn, but at the same time, it moved at a glacial pace. There's a subversion almost, of the whodunnit mystery genre. Vine tells us immediately who the killer was, and who got killed. It's the whys and wherefores that we are concerned with in the rest of the novel.

Faith Severn, the niece of the hanged murderess Vera Hillyard, is approache...more
Since I like Ruth Rendell, I thought I'd try her alter ego, Barbara Vine. This edition of Rendell's first book as Vine has an interesting little afterword by the author, discussing her decision to write books under another name, one she thinks of as another aspect of herself; she says she thought books by Barbara rather than Ruth would turn out "a softer voice...more sensitive perhaps, and more intuitive". Indeed, A Dark-Adapted Eye is more introspective and more slowly paced than those of Rende...more
If I were asked to recommend a book that would give someone a good idea of what life was like for many British people in the years during and after World War Two, I would give them A DARK-ADAPTED EYE. If I were asked to recommend a novel about old sins having long shadows, and family secrets, and the destructive power of love, I would give them A DARK-ADAPTED EYE. If I were asked to recommend a brilliantly conceived and executed mystery, or even just an exceptional "novel of psychological suspen...more
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Dark, dense, thorny, repressed, slightly obscure, and all-around fucked up with some highly unlikable, yet still curiously human, characters.
Angela Buckley
A brilliant introduction to the writing of Barbara Vine - I loved the family history angle and the unusual starting point of the execution of a murderer and then the piecing together of the story in retrospect.
This is the second novel by Barbara Vine (aka Ruth Rendell) that I have read and the second disappointment. Long a fan of Rendell's Wexford novels, I just can't seem to find a way into the ones she writes under the name Barbara Vine. This Edgar Award winner was long, full of unpleasant characters and murky motives, and finished with a ho-hum ending. I find that people keeping secrets, both seriously and for entertainment, is an intriguing idea, but in this case the secrets weren't worth all the...more
Ahhhhh - what a splendid novel. I finished the book with a deep sigh of content and a great appreciation for the fiercely intelligent and moving story that unfolded relentlessly. Ostensibly this novel is about a murder long past but vividly remembered. From the rocketing start the book oozes foreboding and menace while confidently announcing both the murdered and the murderer, the tension builds as the circle of victims and accomplices ever increases. A splendid start, a tense middle and a shock...more
I read this Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell writing suspense novels) and remembered it being one of the best suspense novels I had ever read. Recently, I saw it on a list of recommended books and decided to see if it would be as good the second time. It was!
The novel is told by Faith, the niece of vera Hillyer, who was hanged for murder in the late 1940s in England. The story begins the day Vera is hanged, and captures the reactions of the family. Then Faith goes backward to her childhood during WW 2...more
This is a mystery, though not in the classic mode. Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell) does a great job of developing all the characters in a complicated extended family, both in personality and in style. Ms. Vine's description of class distinctions and changing attitudes across most of the 20th century bring a lot to the story. I particularly enjoyed her descriptions of hairstyles, tagging them to a time and class or just describing woman's hair in an creative engaging manner.

I enjoy most of the books by Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell; this was not one of them. I was very focused while reading this story but I still had a difficult time following all the different characters that appeared periodically throughout the book. I found myself going back through the text multiple times to figure out what the character's role was. This happened throughout the read. Maybe it is my failing. It is not a very suspenseful book; the story builds the end toward what is revealed in the b...more
Dennis Henn
Imagine driving down a country highway. The posted speed limit is 55 and you are stuck following a vehicle traveling at 40. You pull off on an alternate route hoping to speed the drive up. Unfortunately you find yourself now traveling behind a combine going 30. You can't deny the landscape is beautiful and that your car runs well is a bonus. That, however, does nothing to alleviate the frustration of such a slow ride. Distracted, you get lost, and finally forget where you were heading.
That was m...more
My first Barbara Vine book, though I've read lots of Ruth Rendell (Vine is a pen name).
I like the way the story unfolds. Though not a mystery per se, it kept my interest while I tried to figure out not whodunit, but why-she-did-it.
James Barnard
I'm a huge fan of Ruth Rendell, but had never read any of the works she publishes under the "Barbara Vine" name.

I can understand why she's so keen to make the distinction, if this - her first Barbara Vine novel - is anything to go by. Whilst the Ruth Rendell novels fall between two stools (straightforward detective novels with a regular cast of police officers on one hand, and creepy tales told from the point of view of a would-be or actual criminal) this is a whole different genre - a suspensef...more
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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
More about Barbara Vine...
The Chimney Sweeper's Boy Fatal Inversion Anna's Book The Brimstone Wedding The Minotaur

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