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A Sight for Sore Eyes

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  2,990 Ratings  ·  272 Reviews
A Sight for Sore Eyes tells three stories, and for the longest time, the reader has no inkling of how they will come together. The first is a story of a little girl who has been scolded and sent to her room when her mother is brutally murdered; as Francine grows up, she is haunted by the experience, and it is years before she even speaks. Secondly, we become privy to the l ...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published September 14th 2011 by Dell (first published 1998)
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Jan 02, 2012 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
Nov 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Allan Nail
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Kate Howe
Feb 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So unsettling - So creepy - So good

An Alfred Hitchcock type suspense/thriller with a very slow, understated build. It had extremely interesting characters but I definitely had to take my time with this one - not one I wanted to marathon.

Warning: Do not read this late at night.
Feb 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've enjoyed some of Rendell's short stories, and I think I read one of the Inspector Wexford novels years ago. I'm not really into "police books" much, so while I always knew she was a good writer, I wasn't that keen on investigating much of her extensive bibliography.
it turns out she has a whole slew of psychological thriller type stuff that seems like it'd be far more up my alley. This book, for example. It's extremely sharp; vividly written to the point where a thoroughly damaged and ugly s
Mar 28, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cleo Bannister
Jun 19, 2014 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
Feb 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
M. Newman
Jun 30, 2014 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 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Rendell is a highly esteemed author who is known for the popular Wexford series, but also writes crime fiction that explores the psychological background of criminals and their victims, many of them mentally afflicted or otherwise socially isolated. This book falls into this latter category.

It is the story of a psychopath as a child, teenager, college student, and then younger adult. Rendell does excel at showing the progression of his mental illness as he begins to kill and also begins to obses
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
Feb 01, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn’t really know what to expect of the novels of Ruth Rendell before I read A Sight for Sore Eyes. Out of a certain omnipresence hers was one of the names my eye skipped over in the book shop or the library; now I think that was perhaps unfair. I have nothing against crime novels but I didn’t realise that there is rather more to her books than the procedural exercises of genre fiction. A Sight for Sore Eyes has crime in it, but the crime is somehow incidental to the business of the plot.

CB Davis
Oct 06, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 28, 2015 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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
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.
Sep 25, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Really well plotted but the characters are tough to get behind. The main character is frustratingly passive (although the writer goes to great lengths to explain the psychology behind her passivity) and it relied a little too much on the "if only she told someone what was happening" trope that drives me crazy (although usually it's found in bad sitcoms). But the last 20 pages or so are pretty anxiety-provoking.
Jan 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved the characters in this book and the depth in which she describes their thoughts, emotions and motivation behind their actions is truly fascinating. Well written and remarkable.
Feb 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Ruth Rendell. Her characters are so well drawn and the plotting is masterful!
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is really an unexpected and delicious tale. It is one of those books that will make you take a second look at people that you meet, but really know very little about. They seem normal, yet just below the surface is something hideous. Teddy is just horrible, but in some ways Julia is worse because her own brand of horribleness in concealed behind the facade of normalcy cast by the fact she is supposedly an expert and claims to put the interests of Francine first. I had a rather horrible expe ...more
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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.” 1 likes
“His school had been so committed to establishing equality that the staff told a pupil he or she had done well only if they could tell every other member of the class the same thing.” 1 likes
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