Monday, November 26, 2007

A Dark Adapted Eye

A Dark Adapted Eye is the second book I've read by Barbara Vine. I owe a big thank you to the bloggers who have written about her books because I'm sure I would never have picked them up otherwise. I cannot tell you how many people have commented on the fact that the book I've been carrying around (different cover than shown) does not look like something I would typically read - and they are right. Vine's books look like typical murder mysteries but they are really so much more.

A Dark Adapted Eye is the story of Vera Hillyard, as told by her niece Faith. We know from the outset that Vera has been hung for murder around 1950, yet we do not know who she killed or why. A reporter in the present day is doing research for a book and causes Faith to revisit her memories of the time. Faith's reminisces begin when she was a young girl, visiting her Aunt in the country, and the story continues in this vein as Faith becomes older and watches the actions of her elders. This book is very domestic, very much a family drama that happens to have a tragic murder tied to it. Vines drops little hints and comments that we don't understand until later on. I find her such a clever writer and find it hard to believe how prolific she is. I enjoyed this book, and while I didn't love the ending, I would still consider it a very good read.

Barbara Vine is Ruth Rendell, and when I wrote about Asta's Book I had wondered what the differences were in the books written under each name. The copy of Dark Adapted Eye that I have contains a letter from Rendell on this very subject. She writes that she has been called both Ruth and Barbara for her entire life and they are two different facets of her personality. Barbara has a softer voice which is more intuitive and is the more feminine part of her personality. I have a few other Vine books waiting in the wings and look forward to them.

I am currently reading:

The Apple of My Eye by Helene Hanff

All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West for Karen's new bookgroup. I just started this last night.

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell - I just picked this up again last week. I'm having a bit of trouble with it...Margaret Hale has been visiting Bessy and Nicolas Higgins quite a bit and the parts with the Higgins' speaking is written in colloquial English (is that the proper word?). I don't know why, perhaps because I'm reading at night and I'm tired but these parts make me feel so tense because I have to work so hard to understand what's being said. A minor gripe, really, but it's keeping me from wanting to pick up the book again.


heather (errantdreams) said...

'A dark adapted eye' sounds like a lovely read!

Danielle said...

Those are my two favorite B. Vine books--though all of the books I've read by her are good. Definitely more than your normal mystery. I have All Passion Spent waiting for me, but I need to finish another book group book first.

Carrie K said...

It's hard sometimes to get into a book when it's out of time/culture. It'll snap into place eventually, but it can be a slog until then.

A Dark Adapted Eye sounds like a great winter read particularly, for some reason.

Anonymous said...

You made me want to pick up this book, Tara. I'm not really reading new-to-me fiction right now but I will add this to my list. I really like the cover pictured.

nutmeg said...

I remember buying Dark Adapted Eye after finishing and enjoying Asta's Book (many moons ago) - but it has gone missing in the interim!

I have ordered 84 Charing Cross from TBD but The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street proved a little harder to track down but I found one at - so thanks again for mentioning that site :-)

Lisa said...

I haven't read any Barbara Vine, but I have read Ruth Rendell. I have to say that I really enjoyed the Rendell. I think I shall try some Barbara Vine now. This one sounds really good.

Tara said...

Hi Heather, it certainly was!

Danielle, I also have Vine's The Minotaur, The Brimstone Wedding, and The House of Stairs waiting to be read.

Hi Carrie, you're right, and I hope this one does 'snap into place'. I just need to find the rhythm.

Kay, oh good! I rarely find new authors that I like so much, especially ones that already have a body of work just waiting to be discovered. I like this cover too, mine is not nearly as nice.

Nutmeg, I hope you find it! I think these would make good vacation/plane reads. I'm glad you've been able to find Helene Hanff's books and able to utilize Betterworld again! I passed 84, Charing Cross Road on to my mother in law over the weekend and she was laughing out loud.

Lisa, I hope you try Barbara Vine! The Rendell books don't appeal to me quite as much, probably because they seem more like regular mysteries. I should look though, and see if there's anything that looks interesting.

Nan said...

I think this was on PBS. Years ago, on A&E, I think, there were some terrific adaptations of the Ruth Rendell mystery series. I really like her detective and his wife. I see they are now available from Netflix, but not the book you read.

Iliana said...

I'm a Ruth Rendell fan and the one Barbara Vine book I read I didn't like. I've read so many good things about her Barbara Vine novels from so many of my blog friends too though so I think I should give B.V. another try! I would hate to be missing out on a good story :)
Also thanks for the reminder about Karen's group! I read All Passion Spent several years ago but would love to see the discussion on that book. I'll have to drop in!

Tara said...

Nan, perhaps the library has it - I'll have to check. Thanks!

Iliana, I wonder which Vine book you didn't like? I have noticed that the reviews really vary for her books, some seem to be universally loved, others deemed just ok.