Friday, January 14, 2011

Forgotten Book Friday: A Fatal Inversion

Here it is, already two weeks into the New Year, and what is Miss Lemon doing? Not keeping up with her posts, evidently.

To rectify this dereliction of literary duty, Miss Lemon offers her readers another Forgotten Book Friday selection: A Fatal Inversion (1987), by Ruth Rendell, writing as Barbara Vine.

While laying to rest their spaniel, the most recent owners of Wyvis Hall in Nunes, Suffolk, unearth a dark secret, the relics of ten years past when a group of men and women barely past their teens had the ill-founded idea to start a commune. They called it 'Ecalpemos.' And there's your 'fatal inversion.'

Flash forward ten years and the keepers of this secret -- Adam Verne-Smith, Rufus Fletcher and Shiva Manjusri -- each in his own way relives the past and begins to panic as he pieces together the clues the police might find that will implicate him in what should have been a long-forgotten crime.

Though she offers several incisive psychological portrayals, A Fatal Inversion is not Ms. Rendell's best work. Perhaps it's the multiple points of view interspersed with countless flashbacks to 1976 that make this narrative sag at times. Even so, there are many things Miss Lemon found to like about the novel, such as the 'secret drink' that Rufus always keeps hidden behind a curtain hem, a habit that never changes from his days at Ecalpemos to his successful practice on Wimpole Street and the sign of a true alcoholic.

Readers also learn the shocking reason why Adam is so neurotically anxious about the welfare of his infant daughter, Abigail. The reason Ms. Rendell puts forward is as brilliant as it is sinister.


  1. I didn't read this one, but it was part of a Barbara Vine television series they did some years ago, and I liked it very well at the time. I can't remember too much about it but the young people and the setting.

  2. Ah, I didn't realize this was ever televised. I'll have to get a copy of it. I loved dramatised version of The Master of the Moor.

  3. I can't remember the names of all the ones in the series, but it was consistently good and well acted.

  4. I followed you over from you comment on Hannah's Stoneham's excellent blog. I just had to comment because, though I must have read this first more than twenty years ago, I can still remember how gripped I was, especially at the beginning. I reread it a few months ago, and it seemed that although I (kind of) remembered the story, that didn't matter becouse what I like most about it was the brooding, rather desperate atmosphere.

  5. RR is great at atmosphere, isn't she? Have you read Master of the Moor? Another great, moody book. Thanks for your comment. Miss Lemon will be looking out for The Lantern!