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PORTOBELLO By: Ruth Rendell November 22, 2010

Posted by lycan librarian in book reviews, Books and reading.

     Ruth Rendell is an award winning author, a member of Britain’s House of Lords, and one of this reader’s favorite authors. PORTOBELLO, her latest novel, is named after an old London neighborhood filled with street markets, unique shops, and vibrant personality. In surrounding areas,  some residents are people of wealth, and others are those with little who desperately covet regular meals, more possessions and a better life. Be assured, as in all of Rendell’s work, that you will get a clear and colorful view of this London neighborhood and its markets, shops and homes. I, for one, have put this spot on my “must visit” list, and it is a safe bet to say all her readers will. But each and every one will keep a tight grip on their wallets when they do make it there.
     Rendell excels in social commentary and creating three-dimensional characters, and her heroes and villains are painted not in black and white, but in shades of grey. The reader can easily dislike a character in one chapter, and root for them in the next because every fault, weakness and strength is laid out for all to see. Although one of Rendell’s characters may be arrogant, lazy and thieving, the reader will be made to understand why they commit their heinous acts, and sympathize with their reasons. On the other hand, one would often like to give her protagonists a good boot in the butt for their stupidity and blindness.
     I will avoid saying too much about the plot, as what was said above is a clear enough guide as to the direction the story will take, but this novel is also about behaviors and their results: obsession, mind games, addiction, shame, manipulation, religious zeal, and identity crisis.

          Rendell has written forty-six novels, and thirteen under the nom de plume Barbara Vine.  I have read a great deal of them, but not one that I would hesitate to recommend.



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