Posted in Books I have read

The Child’s Child – Barbara Vine

Psychological Crime 4*'s
Psychological Crime

Barbara Vine has written some of my favourite books, those that I have returned to over the years to re-read just for sheer enjoyment despite already knowing what happens.  Now I rarely re-read books and you’d think ones billed as crime would be the last thing to read, after all you already know what happens.  When she writes as Vine (she was first published as Ruth Rendell) her stories often focus on family secrets and misunderstandings or hidden crimes with the story tracking the resulting consequences.  These are books that are character driven, they are not thrillers with fast action but books often spanning years where the characters involved deal with the ripple spreading effect of their actions.

In The Child’s Child we meet siblings, Grace and Andrew who have inherited their grandmother Verity’s large London house.  Deciding they want to keep it they decide to live there together, but, as the blurb reveals, they hadn’t considered what would happen when one of them moves their partner in, particularly if they didn’t get on.  Tensions are soon revealed and the reader is party to the amount of introspection that Grace struggles with when she should be writing her dissertation.

Grace is exploring the lives of unmarried mothers in literature when she picks up what for me is the best part of this story, a book written but not published, which follows the life of Maud, an unmarried mother.  Digging deep into family life starting in 1929 this is a great examination of how disgrace was dealt with at that time.  Vine has a knack of making everything believable, I knew Maud, I may not have liked her but I could see how her character, her views and her circumstances lead her to become the woman she was at the end of her story. Although a little jumpy, you do suddenly realise the story-line has moved on a few years, this part of the book gave me a fascinating look into the mores of the times; this was the part of the book that resonated, Grace and Andrew’s story appearing a little forced for my tastes but providing a mirror of siblings living eighty years apart.

After waiting years for another Vine book, I opened the page and felt soothed by the instantly recognisable style, these books are great for nosey people, those who want to know what goes on behind closed doors and Vine writes in a way that allows the reader to do this.  There is often character introspection, plotting and picking over events so that you really understand their thought processes, their hopes and their fears.

I enjoyed this book but it wouldn’t be the one that I would recommend as a first read so here are my top five Barbara Vine books

A Fatal Inversion – In 1976 a group of friends camp in Wyvis Hall, 10 years later the body of a woman and child are found buried in the pet cemetery, how are the two events connected and whose are the bodies.  Some fantastic hidden clues in this one!

Asta’s Book – In 1905 Asta and her husband move to England with their two sons from Denmark.  Seventy years later the diaries she wrote are translated and published and reveal much more than was expected.

A Dark Adapted Eye – Vera Hillyard and her beautiful sister Eden are locked together trying to hide a secret from the 1950’s.

The Chimney Sweeper’s Boy – Switching between the 1950’s and 1990’s when a noted author dies his total reinvention at the age of 20 is discovered

The Brimstone Wedding – Jenny works in a care home and becomes attached to the elderly Stella who reveals her early life which has parallels to Jenny’s current dilemma.


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

16 thoughts on “The Child’s Child – Barbara Vine

    1. Despite being a big fan of Vine there are some I didn’t enjoy at all. I think you do have to already have some interest in the subject to connect with her distinctive way of dissecting the character’s mind. On the whole I prefer the Vine books to her writing as Rendell although some of the stand-alone’s are very enjoyable.


  1. Like shellyrae, I’ve never really taken to Rendell, which has stopped me ever reading any of her Vine books. However, I’ve been told before that they’re quite different in style so perhaps I should try. Thanks for the list of your favourites – I had just been thinking about asking which you would recommend for a beginner. I like the sound of A Fatal Inversion… 🙂


    1. The Vine books really examine how people work, they are not psychological thrillers as most people understand the genre but nor are they straight crime novels. I think you’ve picked my second favourite I love Asta’s Book but I think that’s more because of my other rather odd interests… As much as I enjoyed The Child’s Child it only really worked as I have so much affection from before so I thought the top five would help other’s choose if they were so inclined. 🙂


      1. I liked the idea of the bodies in the pet cemetery and the hidden clues! But they all sound quite interesting.

        Yes, I got her latest Rendell book as an audioset through Vine a while back, and really felt that it was one only for diehard fans. I often wish writers would retire before their standards start to decline – I find Agatha Christie’s last couple of books quite hard to take.


        1. It is difficult, this one had moments where I did feel that Vine had lost the thread, I did wait until it had come right down in price since the standard of her Rendell ones started to fall away a few years back (I haven’t bothered with the last few) This one worked better in the past as she is on safer ground there 🙂


  2. This is an interesting blog as i have just got some Vine titles and have just read A Dark Adapted Eye. Will have to read more of these titles as I found ADAE a bit hard going in places but I know I would like to read more of hers!


  3. Well I did read this Cleopatra and found it a bit disappointing. it made a 3 star for me, which meant it didn’t reach the blog (4 star minimum is my rule)

    Maybe it might just have made 4 if it hadn’t been by Vine, it’s difficult to tell, as invariably when you like an author you set the bar by the level of the best they write, rather than anything else.

    This one won’t stay on the bookshelf but will join the chairty shop bag of books i have have read and won’t want to read again – Chimney Sweeper’s Boy, Asta and No Night is too long are still on the bookshelves somewhere.

    It’s interesting, I think in Child’s Child she is slightly re-visitng herself, as there are some parallels between No Night Is Too Long and it.


    1. Interesting as I didn’t enjoy No Night Is Too Long and actually can’t really remember it (unlike Asta’s Book et al) It is funny the different positions we take on ratings, I loved this one because it was by Vine and I really enjoy the way she writes although I think this plot was weaker than it could have been in parts.
      I got this on kindle but I too have my older Vine books on my bookshelf and she is one writer who I do re-read (apart from No Night Is Too Long)
      Thanks for coming back and sharing your views, it is always lovely to hear from you.


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