Barbara Vine – The House of Stairs

78. The House of Stairs by Barbara Vine (1988)
Length: 282 pages
Genre: Contemporary Mystery 
Started: 18 August 2014
Finished: 20 August 2014
Where did it come from? From a Library Book Sale
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 16 August 2014
Why do I have it? I like contemporary mysteries
and have read and enjoyed several books by this author in the past.

Who is the sad, reflective narrator and what mysterious illness does she suffer from? What is the strange hold that the tall, dark woman named Bell has over her, and whatever happened at the carefully described House of Stairs in London that sent Bell to prison? The answers are gradually revealed as the intricate knots of this mystery are untied. 

The narrator of the story is a middle-aged novelist named Elizabeth Vetch who, ever since she learned of her grim heritage at age fourteen, has lived under the threat of inheriting the fatal disease known as Huntington’s chorea, which she refers to as “the terror and the bore.” Years before, during the late ’60s and early ’70s, she and Bell and several other vibrant people lived in the House of Stairs, owned by Elizabeth’s recently widowed, newly Bohemian aunt Cosette. The story begins with Elizabeth’s chance sighting of Bell; someone whom Elizabeth hasn’t seen in fourteen years. 

Remembering their past friendship, Elizabeth feels compelled to understand her own reawakened emotions, as well as the events that initiated her and Bell’s parting and caused both Cosette and Elizabeth untold pain. Despite “all the terrible things” that passed between them, Elizabeth makes overtures to rekindle their friendship, with terrifying results…

I thoroughly enjoyed this book; although, the story being told entirely in flashbacks was slightly confusing to me. I was so eager to know what happened, that being pulled into a flashback scene was at times a little annoying. I still would give The House of Stairs by Barbara Vine – who is actually Ruth Rendell – an A+!

A+! – (96-100%)    

Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight


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