Unlike the other residents of Middleton Hall, Stella is elegant, smart, and in control. Only Jenny, her care assistant, knows that she harbours a painful secret, and only she can prevent Stella from carrying it to the grave.
As the women talk, Jenny pieces together the answers to many questions that arise: Why has she kept possession of a house that her family don’t know about? What happened there that holds the key to a distant tragedy?
As Jenny uses the house to meet her lover, she makes some unusual discoveries, but only when Stella leaves Jenny her tape recorder, into which she has recorded the true events of the past, can the truth be finally - and shockingly - revealed.
©1995 Kingsmarkham Enterprises Ltd (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
Until fairly recently, I didn't realize that A-list film actors recorded audiobooks. But apparently, quite a few have, and this recording of The Brimstone Wedding, narrated by the redoubtable Juliet Stevenson, is an example.
Like one of the characters in the novel, I think I'll now always have certain mental associations of wheat fields, farmers, tractors, and "the countryside" in general. The book's entire action takes place in the country; no London scenes here.
She is everything a narrator should be: warm, intimate voice and intonation that invite themselves into the listener's mental "space;" good at various accents; good at performing voices for a sex different than her own (men); and an intelligent phrasing and enunciation. I liked the way she handled the accent of the main narrator, Jenny/Genevieve, because unlike some other actors playing country characters, she didn't make the character seem overly naive or diminished in intelligence. Being from a rural area and having little formal education does not make one stupid or a figure of fun! In Stevenson's hands, Jenny/Genevieve always seems bright as well as sympathetic, friendly, etc.
This isn't one of those Vine/Rendell books (like say, A Sight For Sore Eyes) that affected me viscerally while reading/listening. Towards the end, I even thought, "Really, are those all of the main plot points of the book--no more?" I didn't feel that punch in the stomach and lingering sense of doom that many Vine/Rendell books supply. The plot is much simpler and more straight-forward than I expected from this author. But it works in its own, subtle way. This would definitely reward a repeat listening.
Please note that this is a first-person POV/narration, and it is sometimes shared between two main narrators, neither of which I normally care for in novels, but it works to good effect here. There are also several flashbacks to previous eras (the 1950s and 60s). Also, if you've never read a Barbara Vine novel, you should know that these books are often not detective novels or police procedurals such as the ones the author writes under the name Ruth Rendell. The Brimstone Wedding is not a mystery novel, although there are mysteries within it that characters puzzle over, nor is it a thriller or suspense novel per se. It is, rather, a tale that is suspenseful and at times disturbing (though not, in my opinion, as disturbing as other Vine/Rendell novels). Enjoy!
Retired to South Lake Tahoe, CA. Sell on eBay as Prsilla. No TV. Volunteer in wildlife rehab. Knit, sew or embroider while listening.
This book written by a master and read by a master narrator is to be savored a bite at a time like a box of chocolates -- or gobbled whole overnight! I didn't gobble it whole; however I stayed with the last several hours and was left in a real funk! The story is about a sweet old lady who is only in her early 70's but is dying of cancer. Her care-giver in a pricey nursing home thinks the old lady is interesting. A real love and care grows between them. There are plot details that would be missed by listeners who "gobble"! The medical details are minimal. Both women have been married and had a lover on the side. Their stories are inter-twined with no confusion between the two. The listener cares about both -- with Genevieve's (the care-giver) story progressing in real time and Stella's (the old lady) told in flashbacks and on cassette after she is gone. This is a true horror story! Ruth Rendell is clever and subtle and quite delicious!
Juliet Stevenson is superb narrating Jane Austen. In this story she gets to holler and talk like some unkempt hausfrau in a dirty housecoat. She's an actress! I appreciate the silences after some shocking fact is revealed and between sections. At first Genny sounds like real disadvantaged trash. As the story progresses, we learn that she looks up words and studies classical music and art (to impress the cultured lover) and as she reaches to improve her knowledge, her voice softens. She takes on some of the fastidious "great lady" qualities of her patient, Stella, even as we learn that Stella was considered and treated as "a little nothing" in her own prime!
I feel like I know these people. Right away I sent for a reading copy of the book to go to my elderly English friend, Anne, living in Alabama. (She gobbles!) This is a book to set aside as a real treat on a long weekend or New Year's Eve when you don't have a date. Enjoy!
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