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A Sight for Sore Eyes

3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,583 Ratings  ·  221 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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Jan 18, 2012 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, suspense
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
Sep 13, 2015 Carol rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychological
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
Oct 31, 2010 Anna rated it it was amazing
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
Allan Nail
Aug 09, 2013 Allan Nail rated it it was amazing
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
May 04, 2015 Kevin rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 18, 2012 Kat rated it liked it
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
Feb 05, 2008 Bill rated it it was amazing
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
Cleo Bannister
Jun 21, 2014 Cleo Bannister rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
M. Newman
Jul 08, 2014 M. Newman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, suspense
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
Rebecca Martin
Jun 16, 2013 Rebecca Martin rated it it was amazing
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.
Zara Aitken
May 20, 2014 Zara Aitken rated it it was ok
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
Feb 13, 2009 Rachel rated it liked it
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
Jan 28, 2015 Stacey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A standalone prequel of sorts for The Vault, an entry in the Inspector Wexford series. I think I actually enjoyed this one better reading it out of sequence and knowing exactly where folks were going to end up! It helped me understand why she had so little to say about the victims in the first book. It had all been revealed here, and Wexford stumbles into it while batting clean up on a separate, more-recent incident. 90's era pyschodrama. Psycho as in psychopath! Horrors! But as usual with Rende ...more
Apr 01, 2008 Mary rated it really liked it
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
Oct 21, 2011 Eva rated it liked it
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
Sep 11, 2012 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
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's all so terrible, but one cannot look away ...more
Sep 25, 2011 Beverly rated it liked it
Shelves: crime, british
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.
Dec 05, 2014 Hal rated it really liked it
What I like best about Ruth Rendell's work is that the psychological underpinnings of the characters seem very realistic and set the stage for what ends up feeling like inevitable tragedy. In this novel, which I read and enjoyed, the initial influences on the protagonist's character are so exaggerated as to be unbelievable. The reader must decide whether to close the book or to suspend disbelief and keeping going.

Because I have relished so many of Rendell's books, I chose to keep reading. The st
Not going to rate this because I abandoned it 1/2 way in.

I don't know what it is, this is the second time I have tried a Rendell novel and I do like her writing style and characterizations, but I just cannot seem to get engaged with her books. They leave me waiting for something, anything to happen.

I have to assume that there is something that I am missing. Until I find out what it is I am just going to pass on the rest of her writing.
Jun 09, 2013 Theresa rated it really liked it
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!
Syl  ʃʃ^.^ʃʃ
Typical Rendell. The story starts apparently 'normal', slowly but steadily escalates into dark horror. Rendell can deal with abnormal minds like none other can.
This one invokes a myriad of characters, none of whom are leading a normal existence. Teddy is the dark hero/villain, an unwanted, neglected child who grows up in squalor, and perversely learns to appreciate beauty in objects. He strives for perfection, and himself being blessed with good looks, escapes being found out for what he is - a
CB Davis
Oct 06, 2015 CB Davis rated it did not like it
This book was NUTBALLS. One of those books you’re reading and think, okay, this is so horribly written, the characters are ridiculously contrived, why do I keep reading? You keep reading because you think “oh the NYTimes said it was a flawless piece of craftsmanship.” and you think, oh the big twist at the end will make it worth it. (No, you are dead wrong about that.) Tell me, do you think this is a well crafted sentence: “Christopher was there, reclining on a settee covered in a polyester tige ...more
Jan 18, 2012 Thea rated it really liked it
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.
Sonny Br
Oct 07, 2015 Sonny Br rated it really liked it
Bleak, compelling, very well-constructed. This is the fourth Rendell novel I’ve read. It is perhaps the best. It’s not a murder mystery or a police procedural. Rather, it’s a study of psychopathology and obsession which happen to lead to murder. You could call it a psychological thriller, but the characterizations are much more skillfully rendered than in most thrillers you find in airport bookstores. Rendell has a way of making simple, plain narrative statements that provide much insight into t ...more
Aug 22, 2015 Norma rated it it was amazing
This was the first book I read by this author and it is one of my favorites this year. There are 3 stories going on at the same time but are easy to follow and they all come together at the end, in which one I was totally shocked. The characters were well developed and I even had some empathy for a couple of them. The only one I think may have a slim chance is Francine. I'm not going to give away too much but just say that the stories give insight into why people are they way they are and it all ...more
Feb 18, 2012 Doreen rated it really liked it
I love Ruth Rendell. Her characters are so well drawn and the plotting is masterful!
What a frustrating book, what mixed feelings I have in reaction to it.

It reads well, making me want to find out what happens next. The step-by-step grind to what eventually happens. Because of the genre one can take a vague guess as to what might happen but there were next to no plot spoilers.

In some respects the characterisations were good, showing some lovely insights into the small matters of some people's behaviour, and a delightful depiction of certain types.

For all these reasons I would
Christine Bloom
Jan 09, 2013 Christine Bloom rated it it was amazing
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
Charles Zigmund
Nov 14, 2013 Charles Zigmund rated it it was amazing
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
May 07, 2015 Martha rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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A.K.A. Barbara Vine

Ruth Barbara Rendell, Baroness Rendell of Babergh, CBE, who also wrote under the pseudonym Barbara Vine, was an acclaimed English crime writer, known for her many psychological thrillers and murder mysteries and above all for Inspector Wexford.
More about Ruth Rendell...

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“The sensations he had were shared by many of the young, poor and beautiful: how unfair it was that they should be denied benefits which the old and ugly enjoyed.” 0 likes
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