A Sight for Sore Eyes
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A Sight for Sore Eyes

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  2,018 ratings  ·  173 reviews
Nobody does North London squalor better than Ruth Rendell. Describing in vivid detail the cultural sewer in which a monster named Teddy Brex grows up, she uses hideous furniture, slovenly housekeeping habits, even his mother's diet while pregnant to root us in the setting's hopeless ugliness. In contrast, Rendell introduces people and places of stunning beauty: Francine, a...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published March 7th 2000 by Dell (first published 1998)
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Barbara
Ruth Rendell has rarely disappointed me. Her elegant prose cannot be matched in this genre. I continue to be amazed at the depths and heights of her prolific imagination.

Her characters possess varied deficits and pathologies which reveal increasing deviousness and add continued tension throughout her narrative. This novel is no exception to her skills. In fact, the major offender is one of the most chilling individuals whom I have met in her books. Rendell's clear insight into this man's skewed...more
Carol
Ruth Rendell has made a long career out of writing about damaged people. They go about their lives doing things that are strange, sadistic and even criminal but somehow they are undetected until they spiral out of control. In "A Sight for Sore Eyes" her lead characters are Teddy and Francine. Teddy is an ignored and unloved child from a lower class London family who lives in a filthy smoke filled home. He has no interest in anything until a neighbor shows him carpentry. As Teddy grows up he has...more
Anna
Rendell is a master storyteller. She creates stories that capture me right away. Intriguing plots involving ordinary characters in ordinary situations yet they will inevitably be pushed to commit murder. In Sight for Sore Eyes, she presents three sets of stories.First begins with Marc and Harriett who pose for a portrait in the 1960’s. Marc is a rock star, Harriet, his current girlfriend. He throws her out when she repeatedly asks him if he loves her. It was the last straw. Next there’s Eileen a...more
Kat
So, this is one of those wishy washy books...where you say to your friends "well, it wasn't good but it wasn't necessarily bad either." Like that helps, right? But honestly, I just have lukewarm feelings about this book.

This was the latest choice for my book club as we've picked our way along EW's list of 100 new classics. Since A Sight for Sore Eyes appeared on the list, you know that it is a critical darling (I just want to make you aware that my view of this book likely diverges from popular...more
Bill
When I started my website, I began with a batch of reviews of books I had read that had stuck with me for one reason or another. One that hadn't made the cut was Ruth Rendell's Make Death Love Me, quite readable but failed to leave a lasting impression.

A Sight for Sore Eyes now reminds me of how readable Ruth Rendell is.
This one was very absorbing, and there are few authors I have read that can write about obsession like she can. This novel has one of my favorite formulas, be it with novels or...more
Cleo Bannister
I re-read this book as I have ordered The Vault and although 'A Sight for Sore Eyes' isn't a Wexford novel the two stories are linked.

I have always enjoyed Ruth Rendell's books although I have felt that the newer books have not quite lived up to my expectations. This book is more in the style of her Barbara Vine books in that it examines the lives of damaged people; Teddy Brex who as a young adult values beauty beyond everything else, Francine Hill, a young lady who when a young child was presen...more
Allan Nail
Mmm. This was a great read. I think I might be spending some time with Ms. Rendell.

As the summer wanes and I find myself pulling together the reading I'll do with my students, I admit that I'm getting a bit resentful of having to go back to work, for one reason: no more lying on the couch for hours reading, and no more staying up 'til 1 AM finishing a book I just couldn't stop reading. That's exactly what happened with A Sight for Sore Eyes. It was very, very good.

I've gotten spoiled. To this po...more
Rachel
The characters play the most important part in this psychological suspense. We follow Teddy and Francine through their lives. Each person has aspects of their past that link them together in tragedy. Teddy is the son of two parents who never show him any signs of attention. He learns to trust only in beautiful objects and becomes an exquisite craftsman. Francine has witnessed her mother's death. She becomes mute for a time being, and this puts her in contact with under-qualified pscyhotherapists...more
Mary
Teddy, wounded by a childhood of neglect, grows up to be a lover of beauty but completely detached from human emotion. He becomes obsessed with Francine, whose history has also left her wounded. At the age of seven , she was present in her home when her mother was murdered and became mute for several months afterwards. Francine is now a teenager taking steps toward independence, a thought which leads her stepmother to a state of obsessive anxiety. Rendell's portraits of wounded and incomplete pe...more
Eva
I reread this after reading The Vault, which follows on from it, many years later. It is one of her darker, psychological novels - no detective, no mystery as such, just a tale of two fractured families and the children they produce: beautiful, gentle, sheltered Francine, and Teddy, who is amoral, unsocialised, handsome, and loves beautiful things. As with many Ruth Rendells there is a strong sense of chance - the small choice that leads to a larger catastrophe - and the fatal misunderstanding....more
Elizabeth
With excriciatingly-teeth-grindingly awkward characters and situations, A Sight for Sore Eyes is full of a creeping horror--and the murders that are at the core of this book are only part of it. Like Patricia Highsmith's Talented Mr. Ripley before him, Teddy Brex needs to be surrounded by beautiful things, and will do anything to get them. People are merely obstacles in his way. There are a number of threads that come together in an inexorable way...it's all so terrible, but one cannot look away...more
Beverly
Rendell's latest Wexford is a sequel to this novel published in 1998. I either missed this one (which is what I think happened) or forgot it totally. Since I knew what happened through reading The Vault, the story was not as creepy or mysterious as it could have been. But it was a great study of psychopathic personalities and other forms of madness, so pretty creepy after all. As in her more recent stand alones, Rendell here pulls together the threads of individual characters' stories.
Theresa
I started reading The Vault also by Ruth Rendell and I realized the characters sounded familiar. Then I found out that The Vault continues the story from A Sight for Sore Eyes, so of course I had to re-read SFSE. I liked it even more the second time. Rendell is at her best with great characters, bizarre coincidences, and plenty of psychological drama. Can't wait to see what happens in this next book!
Zara Aitken
I was bitterly disappointed with this book after reading so many good reviews and having had a friend recommend it to me. I found the story lack lustre and repetitive, with the same points being repeated continuously, as if Rendell just needed to fill space. The writing to me was childish and immature, not suggestive of an accomplished author in the slightest but rather seemed to be the work of a primary school student in places. I know this is quite petty but when you read a book by such a high...more
Rebecca Martin
My favorite of all of Rendell's novels. Just brilliant. Great depth of characterization and the characters develop over time in unpredictable ways. I read _The Vault_, which apparently picks up some of the same characters. some time ago. Now I plan to read it again and will probably enjoy it more.
Thea
Another great Ruth Rendell book: winding plot lines that all converge, deliciously unlikeable characters, and a twist at the end that I didn't see coming.
Doreen
I love Ruth Rendell. Her characters are so well drawn and the plotting is masterful!
M. Newman
This book is populated by enough psychologically damaged characters to fill an asylum. The two craziest of the bunch would have to be Julia, the overprotective stepmother, who also happens to be, probably the worst psychologist in the history of the profession; and Teddy, a neglected boy who grows to be a beautiful but scary psychopath. Around this collection of kooks, who fall victim to an unusual amount of miscalculations and misunderstandings, Rendell, as usual manages to weave a fascinating,...more
Christine Bloom
I am in love or should I say infatuated with Ruth Rendell's writing ability. This book was a treat especially the audio version with the great narrator, Jenny Sterlin. I loved it so much I downloaded it so I could read and really relish Rendell's prose. Yes, she does all those things you aren't supposed to do as a writer--multiple POVS, leaving clues along the way with hints that we should remember them, but it all works beautifully.

Those clues. You think the books is slow at first but then it...more
Charles Zigmund
I eagerly go to the New Books section each time I visit the library to see if a new Ruth Rendell book has arrived. Usually disappointed, I go elsewhere to find something to check out. She only turns out one every year or two, but should be writing one a month.

There are a small number of genre writers who write real literature in the process of writing their mystery novel or SF novel or whatever. Rendell is perhaps the most eminent member of this little club. Of all today's writers of fiction, l...more
Rebecca
I picked this up thinking it was an Inspector Wexford mystery and it wasn't. I still enjoyed it though. It did seem plodding at times except for the ending which mad it worthwhile. It's about Teddy who has childhood issues and Francine who sees her mother murdered. There lives intertwine and of course no good can come of it.

Teddy can make beautiful things and only likes beautiful things as his life has been surrounded with ugliness. Francine is considered fragile as she heard her mother being s...more
Marco
I started reading the book and I was immediately captured by the deep psychological analysis of the main character, Teddy, a psychopath. The author led the reader in Teddy's mind. Suddenly it is easy to understand his way of thinking, and even relate and be sympathetic towards him. This is the kind of book that is impossible to put down once started, the kind of book you end up reading until an early hour in the morning to realize you need to be at work few hours later. (Spoiler alert, stop read...more
Maxine
Jul 03, 2014 Maxine rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mystery lovers, fans of psychological thrillers
This is the first book I've read by this author. Mysteries are really not my favorite genre, but Ruth Rendell excels in creating characters with meticulously crafted psychological profiles. We really understand what makes these characters tick. She's also a master at interweaving circumstances and personalities.

That's what "A Sight For Sore Eyes" does. We can understand the motives and urges of each character, and the things that bring them together. Several of the people in this novel are seri...more
Mary Lautner
I am not sure how I would have liked the ending to be. I was totally absorbed in the characters...creeped out entirely but fascinated as the author draws nightmarish situations that never seem to end. They are realistic enough to be very believable scenarios. With Francine's naivitè I could see why she acted the way she did, not comprehending real possible danger. So was the ending a kind of let down? Maybe. Very well done!
Mary
May 23, 2012 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
Teddy was born into poverty and has risen from those humble beginnings to become an extremely talented craftsman determined to banish ugliness from his life. Harriet is a beautiful, bored trophy wife who employs a series of repairmen and handymen to satisfy her sexual desires. Francine is a college student who witnessed her mother’s murder and now must free herself from the manipulative clutches of her father’s second wife. Connected by strands of pure chance, their lives intersecting in the str...more
Erin
This is one of those books that stays with you, even years later. In fact, I picked it up from the library because I wanted to make sure to remember the title and author, despite having read it years ago.

Chilling, haunting, this book will keep you up at night and make you wonder how you can ever trust anyone.
Shannon Teper
I am always amazed at Ruth Rendell's ability to imagine such unpredictable plots. While reading A Sight for Sore Eyes, I couldn't tell in which direction the plot would twist and turn or where it would eventually end up. Having read large numbers of mystery books, I've become an expert at finding a pattern and predicting where the author is headed long before the book's culmination, but Ruth Rendell is wonderfully unpredictable. I also marvel at her ability to create believable and sympathetic f...more
David
The ending was good (though slightly improbable), but 98% of the book was spent on rather laboriously setting everything up for the final couple of chapters. I felt there wasn't enough dramatic tension throughout most of the book, although it was sufficiently well written to keep me reading.
Vincent Desjardins
Subverting the familiar fairy-tale theme of an orphaned maiden rescued by a handsome knight, Rendell focuses her tale on three individuals: Francine, who as a young girl is a witness to her mother’s murder; Julia, Francine’s therapist and then stepmother, whose worries over her step-daughter’s safety turn into an obsession that make her as mad as any fairy-tale witch; and last but not least Teddy, the “white knight” of the tale who in this case is a psychopath who doesn’t hesitate to murder to g...more
Layla
Liked this! Very clever book about how children grow up different and ways in which they deal with their childhood trauma. I liked the cyclical elements to the book right at the end, and I liked the odd unexpected twist. I enjoyed the characters Teddy and Julia. Julia fascinated me. Enjoyable read!
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Ruth Barbara Rendell, Baroness Rendell of Babergh, CBE, who also writes under the pseudonym Barbara Vine, is an acclaimed English crime writer, known for her many psychological thrillers and murder mysteries.
More about Ruth Rendell...
From Doon With Death (Inspector Wexford, #1) A Judgement in Stone The Babes in the Wood (Inspector Wexford, #19) Kissing the Gunner's Daughter (Inspector Wexford, #15) The Water's Lovely

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