Book Review: The Child's Child, by Ruth Rendell (writing as Barbara Vine)

This review originally ran in the Friday, September 21, 2012 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. If you don't already subscribe, sign up here to receive a bi-weekly dose of readerly goodness in your inbox.

When Grace and Andrew Easton's grandmother dies, she leaves her sprawling Victorian home to the both of them. Rather than selling it, as everyone seems to think they should, they decide to move in, dividing the large rooms of the house between themselves. The two siblings, always close, never considered the possible complications of romantic relationships, if and when they arose--so when Andrew brings home his boyfriend, first to meet his sister and then to live there, they are unprepared for the discord the third party brings into the house. Grace, a student of literature, distracts herself from these problems with the manuscript of an unpublished novel from 1951--a tale of sexuality, illegitimate children and sibling relationships that bears striking resemblance to Grace and Andrew's own situation.

With The Child's Child, Ruth Rendell (writing as Barbara Vine) offers readers a story within a story, weaving modern times with a tale of the 1950s that casts our current social and cultural issues in a harsh light. As Rendell moves between the two stories, she subtly points out the differences--and in some cases, similarities--between the social taboos of the two generations, and not always in a kind light. Both stories within The Child's Child are sexual and violent and, as with most of Rendell's work, strikingly psychological in their suspense, resulting in an intricate novel that deals not-so-delicately with important topics of both the past and the present.

The Child's Child | Ruth Rendell (writing as Barbara Vine) | Scribner | December 2012 | Hardcover | 320 pages | Buy from an independent near you

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