The First Lord Nanther clearly hoped to be the subject of an admiring posthumous biography. Having built a name for himself as Queen Victoria’s favoured physician - expert on blood diseases and particularly the royal disease of haemophilia - he fastidiously set about recording the details of his eminent life, carefully cataloguing every significant letter, diary and medical essay that he’d written.
But when the present Lord Nanther begins to research the life of his great-grandfather, he soon realises there is little of interest in his ancestor’s dry-as-dust account. Indeed, he begins to suspect that these old records conceal more than they reveal....
©2002 Kingsmarkham Enterprises Ltd (P)2010 BBC Audiobooks Ltd
trying to see the world with my ears
I didn't know what to expect from Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara Vine (except good writing) and feared that this was some kind of gothic horror - but it is an absorbing character-driven story, with a mystery element very secondary. In fact, it's more of a puzzle than a mystery, pieced together in the course of the slowly moving narrative, with storylines nesting inside one another like Russian dolls.
Its tone reminded me a bit of French Lieutenant's Woman: Though not set in Victorian England, it evokes and reflects on that period in a similar way as the main character undertakes a biography of an ancestor. The story of writing the Victorian biography is so convincing that at times I forgot I was listening to fiction.
As another reviewer pointed out, there are serious editing glitches at around hour 5 and 5:45 of part 1 - annoying, but they don't ruin the listen. This is a slow listen - but that can be good - in fact, to me it's the best novel I've heard this past year (out of approximately 30-40).
This is one of my favorite Barbara Vine novels, the other being THE MINOTAUR. This is a very good reader, which makes it a good story well-told in every way.
Make the the present day Lord Nanther somewhat less self-flagalating when it comes to his wife. She is too intelligent to be so maddeningly and unrelentingly selfish. One becomes fatigued with it. One wants him to flare up. Thank God for the Swiss trip toward the end. And thank God for the happy ending!! I do love a happy ending.
An absolutely magnificent reader! He reads the story ever so much better than I could read it to myself. He makes the characters come wonderfully alive!
Ask why R. Powell hasn't narrated more fiction for us. He develops character and dialogue impeccably. This talent is wasted on history, of which he has recorded a lot.
I would also ask for a sequel. I would love to see how His Lordship and Lady handle the coming years. (I don't want to give away the plot.)
Chapter 10 contains a repeat of several pages. Editing needed here. Story moves slowly enough without the repetition.
"Complex and Convincing"
This is among the best of the Barbara Vine books. The narrator, while researching the life of his great grandfather slowly uncovers tragedy. At the same time he can hardly control the way his own life is being swept along. The depth and detail of research, the interlinking themes, the convincing characters, their psychology and behaviours, the final resolutions make this a top quality work and a complete joy to have unabridged on audio book.
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