First published in the UK by Hutchinson in September 2000.
I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing.
Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the book from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
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How I got this book:
Swapped for at the book exchange at Serro Da Bica campsite, Ourique, Portugal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The long title story is about a man whose life, in a sense, is a book. There are shelves in every room, packed with titles which Ambrose Ribbon has checked pedantically for mistakes of grammar and fact. Life for Ribbon, without his mother now, is lonely and obsessive, filled with psychoses and neuroses, with the ever-present possibility of a descent into violent madness. He still keeps his mother's dressing table exactly as she had left it, the wardrobe door always open so that her clothes can be seen inside, and her pink silk nightdress on the bed. There is one book too that he associates particularly with her - volume VIII of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Piranha to Scurfy. It marked a very significant moment in their relationship. In the other stories, Ruth Rendell deals with a variety of themes, some macabre, some vengeful, some mysterious, all precisely observed. The second novella, High Mysterious Union, explores a strange, erotic universe in a dream-like corner of rural England, and illustrates very atmospherically what range Ruth Rendell has as a writer, expanding beyond her famous sphere of crime writing.
At the time of reading this book, maybe three years ago now, I wasn't particularly a short story fan. However I enjoyed this collection and have since come to appreciate the genre much more. The eleven tales range from the mysterious to the macabre and I particularly appreciated the two novellas, Piranha To Scurfy and High Mysterious Union. Rendell is an astute observer of a particular type of middle-class Englishness and these two stories certainly showcase her writing. Piranha To Scurfy reminded me of an Alan Bennett Talking Heads sort of person, albeit even darker! The Beach Butler was my favourite of the short stories.
Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Ruth Rendell / Short stories / Books from England