Angie's Reviews > The House of Stairs

The House of Stairs by Barbara Vine
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's review
Mar 21, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: literary, psychological-suspense, england, favorites, books-about-books

Out of print. This is my favorite Barbara Vine novel. Incredible structure, with a perfect amount of foreshadowing. Narrator's voice is pitch perfect throughout. This book is worth reading more than once, as I just have, taking advantage of the fact that it is now available in ebook format.

I have placed this book on my shelf of "books-about-books" because Rendell (here under her pseudonym) borrows her main story line, events that are recalled, from "The Wings of the Dove" by Henry James. In fact, the narrator admits she has caused events to unfold because she tells another character the plot of the classic.

The narrator begins her story seeming surprising sane despite the burdens she bears, but somewhere in the last chunk of the book her vision, as it were, narrows as we understand she is either becoming ill or is suffering from a mental breakdown. What's interesting is that we'll never know what does happen to her because the book ends on a ringing phone, which creates a deep-seated fear in the reader. Or at least it did the first time I read it. Now, I see that the author does let us know many times before the end what the real "end of the story" will be.
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Reading Progress

March 21, 2009 – Shelved
March 21, 2009 – Shelved as: literary
March 21, 2009 – Shelved as: psychological-suspense
March 21, 2009 – Shelved as: england
May 11, 2011 – Shelved as: favorites
June 27, 2012 – Shelved as: books-about-books
Started Reading
June 29, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Jackie Jameson Love your review. Spot on. So do you think Elizabeth DOES have the Huntingtons? The way she speaks about the ring at the end makes me believe so, but, sentimentalist that I am, I hope she reunites with Cossett. Maybe it will take a second reading for me too, because her relationship with Bell, an obvious sociopath, I didn't understand. Would love to hear more from you about the book. I've been working my way through Rendell/Vine novels. My favorite so far is "A Fatal Inversion." I'm glad she's so prolific, because I've become spoiled and disappointed with other authors I've been reading since discovering her!

Savanna D ***spoilerish***
Lizzie's number is up unless the call is from Cosette and immediate intevention takes place to remove her from the clutches of Bell.

message 3: by L. (new) - rated it 5 stars

L. Legault I've read this many times but did not notice that Lizzie might be nearing a breakdown by the end of the story, but you could well be right that this is what we are intended to understand. I also hope that she will reunite with Cossette.

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