Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine

Publisher - The edition I read had previously been published free with Country Living magazine, and was bought from Green Metropolis for £3.75.  It's widely available through Green Metropolis, ebay and Amazon to name but a few.

Barbara Vine is Ruth Rendell, and A Dark-Adapted Eye was assigned as February's book club book.  The title refers to how the narrator recalls events from earlier decades and slowly the picture becomes clearer the more she remembers, much like you might observe in a dark room, as your eye adapts to the dark you are able to see more.

We have our book club meeting tomorrow night, and I finished the story this morning.  I must admit I speed-read through the last 50-100 or so pages, partly because I was afraid I wouldn't finish it in time, and partly because I'd read that there were twists at the end that it was worth reading for.

Part of me was expecting the twist to be that Vera was not guilty, even though it's clearly stated from the start that she was guilty and there had been several witnesses.  It's not so much a whodunit as a whydidshedoit.

Every review was glowing, and while I can see that technically it's very good, extremely well crafted and keeps you guessing til the end (and beyond), I can't say that I enjoyed it.  I don't think it's a book that you 'enjoy'.  I think it's meant to puzzle you, and intrigue you, and make you want to keep reading to find out why Vera was hanged, what could have gone so wrong for a woman who so strictly lived to a decent moral code.  I didn't get that feeling either.  I wasn't thinking about it when I wasn't reading it, I could easily have put it down and not picked it up for a week, and if something had happened to the book and I lost it, I would not have bought/borrowed another copy to find out what happened.

What was brilliant about it was the teasing and slow drip-feed of information, and realising how your perception of characters and events changes over the time.  For instance I interpreted the opening paragraphs as though the narrator is planning a murder.  It soon became clear what was really going on, but you need to read the whole story to understand the whys and wherefores.  I pretty much detested Vera and Eden at the beginning, but by the end I was desperately sorry for them both.

Occasionally I watch the soaps, and when we discuss what's happening in the storyline it can feel like we're discussing it as though it were real.  That's kind of how I feel when I think about this.  I feel quite sad when I think of all the times that the narrator, Faith, points out how things could have worked out differently.  I have to remind myself that it's not real.

Would I recommend it?  Yes, despite everything I've said above I would recommend it.

Questions I want to raise tonight... (I've left one or two out as they're spoilers in themselves, but if you read the book you'll be asking those questions yourself).

How could things have been different?

Is anyone who they seem at first?

What about Francis?

Can you trust Faith?  Were Vera and Eden as bad as she remembers, especially her earlier memories?

What was Daniel Stewarts aim in writing Vera’s story?

Would you re-read this?

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