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A Sight for Sore Eyes

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  3,385 ratings  ·  318 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 ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published March 7th 2000 by Dell (first published 1998)
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3.83  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,385 ratings  ·  318 reviews

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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
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
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.
Oct 31, 2010 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 05, 2013 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
Mar 28, 2012 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
Jan 12, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brought up in an affectionless, distanced family, young Teddy has become an aesthete, a craftsman, an emotional cripple and a sociopath. Having as a child seen her mother murdered, Francine has had her life since then dominated by her controlling, obsessional, quack psychotherapist stepmother, Julia. Harriet still lives in a past where she was a rock socialite celebrated for her pre-Raphaelite-style beauty, subject of an iconic painting; now, married to a far older man who bores her rigid, she w ...more
Feb 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Ruth Rendell is an excellent writer, particularly in her descriptions of persons and places. And that descriptive power is especially important in a book like "A Sight for Sore Eyes," which, as the title implies, has a lot to do with beauty (or the lack of it). And, given that this is a Ruth Rendell novel, the moral rules and laws characters break in their striving for it. But she also explores how beauty can become a hollow shell and how it can hide a dark interior.

One character, for instance,
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
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
Sep 10, 2012 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
Clare Snow
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Clare by: my Grandma
Just as squirm inducing as the last time I read it. I'm not sure it's my fav Ruth Rendell anymore. The Crocodile Bird has surpassed Teddy and his deviance.

After reading A Sight for Sore Eyes, go onto The Vault and find out what happens 12 years later at Orcadia Place. It's a pretty shitty Wexford mystery (his family woes could happily be cut), but fun to revisit this exquisite house of doom.
Rebecca Martin
Jun 15, 2013 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.
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
Aug 16, 2017 rated it liked it
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
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.

Leslie Nagel
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I will give this four stars for the exceptional writing. However, as a book touted as a thriller, I was not thrilled. Thrillers demand pacing. The heart should pound, at least one twist should take your breath away. The journey to the conclusion--a letdown--was too long. Ended with a bump instead of a bang.
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-thriller
This was a lot of fun. A creeping sense of dread throughout, interesting and well-drawn characters, some good twists and turns, and everything tied up neatly. Will definitely be reading more by this author as I was a huge fan of the Wexford stories when I was young and her work has been recommended to me by many people.
Zara Aitken
May 08, 2014 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
Gila Gila
Sep 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
“A Sight for Sore Eyes” is artfully constructed and tightly wound, coming unwound at just the right moments. There’s the Bound For Trouble Francine and Teddy, the class-clashing romance (she’s a virginal flower from an academic background; forget that he’s “lower class”, or blue collar as they say here, he’s a psychopath; both of them are longing for mothers who were absent through death or disinterest); there’s the exquisitely drawn Harriet, once a band groupie, now wealthy but at odds with th ...more
Christine Bloom
Jan 02, 2013 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
Mar 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's hard to say how I feel about this book. There was a lot of sordid scenery, environments which I just did not enjoy spending time in, sometimes dipping to the level of the grotesque. Normally that would put me right off a book, but I found myself absorbed in spite of it. Rendell is so good at evoking an environment, even an unpleasant one. And she treats even unlikeable, appalling characters with a sort of frank respect for their humanity that I really appreciate.

As the plot threads of this
Nov 28, 2014 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
Mar 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
I felt compelled to re-read this following the latest Wexford that intriguingly returns to the scenes of all the murders in "The Vault" I immediately recognised the house and the girl, Harriet, who featured in the painting, but couldn't really remember the story.
Well, it's a good read, with dysfuncyional Teddy and Francine's barmy step-mother. It would makes sense to read one and then the newer one to tie up the loose ends, but the Wexford novel is the better by far.
Ruth Rendell is a good write
Feb 01, 2009 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
Oct 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: thriller
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
Vincent Desjardins
Jan 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
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
CB Davis
Oct 06, 2015 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
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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.
“People were, as he had long suspected, uniformly vile and rotten, vastly inferior to things. Objects never let you down.” 3 likes
“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.” 2 likes
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